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Bill on salaries, perks of ECP members introduced in NA

Bill on salaries, perks of ECP members introduced in NA

ISLAMABAD: A bill about salaries, allowances, perks and privileges of members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), as admissible for a judge of the high court, was introduced in the National Assembly on Friday.

The bill seeks to address an anomaly in the law which cropped up because salaries, perks and privileges of the ECP members appointed under a new procedure mentioned in the 18th Amendment were not specified.

The amendment provided for appointment of retired judges of high courts as members of the ECP, but did not fix their salaries. Prior to the amendment, sitting judges of high courts were appointed as members of the ECP.

While the parliament curtailed some powers of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), it did not specify terms and privileges of the commission’s four other members though it granted them powers similar to that of the CEC.

The government appointed four retired high court judges as members of the ECP in June, 2011 — 14 months after the passage of the 18th Amendment, triggering a debate on the legal status of by-elections in a number of constituencies organised and supervised by an incomplete ECP.

Some of the members, including retired Justice Fazal-ur-Rehman (Balochistan), retired Justice Shahzad Akbar Khan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), retired Justice Riaz Kayani (Punjab) and retired Justice Muhammad Roshan Essani (Sindh) will be retiring on June 13 this year on completion of their five-year term.

Sources in ECP said that at the moment the members were drawing provisional salaries which would be adjusted when a law was adopted. An official of the law ministry confirmed that the bill was aimed at providing a legal cover to salaries drawn by the sitting members as it would be deemed to have taken effect from June 13, 2011.

An ECP official said the commission had sent a draft law on salaries, perks and privileges of the members to the law ministry some four years ago, but regretted that so far no progress had been made on it.

He said the-then CEC, retired Justice Hamid Ali Mirza, had decided that the ECP members would draw the salary as admissible to a high court judge as provided under the National Judicial Policy and subject to adjustment by parliament.

The bill, introduced in the National Assembly by Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Shaikh Aftab Ahmad, reads: “A member shall be entitled to a salary, allowances, perks and privileges as admissible to a judge of the high court.”

Chief whip of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) in the National Assembly Dr Shireen Mazari opposed the proposed legislation, saying its statement of objects and reasons lacked clarity.

But Deputy Speaker Javed Murtaza Abbasi overruled her objection and said that presentation of a bill was prerogative of the government.

“The opposition can give its input on the proposed bill at committee level,” he said, before referring the bill to the standing committee concerned.

Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2016

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