Sikandar Sultan Raja
سکندر سلطان راجہ
Chief Election Commissioner of Pakistan
Assumed office
27 January 2020
Appointed byArif Alvi
Railways Secretary of Pakistan
In office
November 2018 – December 2019
Appointed byImran Khan
Petroleum Secretary of Pakistan
In office
18 April 2017 – 26 August 2018
Appointed byNawaz Sharif
Chief Secretary Azad Kashmir
In office
January 2016 – April 2017
Appointed byNawaz Sharif
Chief Secretary Gilgit-Baltistan
In office
April 2014 – April 2015
Appointed byNawaz Sharif
Additional Chief Secretary to the Government of Punjab
In office
January 2012 – May 2012
Appointed byShahbaz Sharif
Personal details
BornBhera, Punjab Pakistan
Nationality Pakistani
SpouseRabab Sikandar
Children2
ParentSultan Ahmed
OccupationCareer Bureaucrat

Sikandar Sultan Raja is a retired Pakistani civil servant who has been the Chief Election Commissioner of Pakistan since January 2020.[1] Raja belongs to the Pakistan Administrative Service and is batchmates with Rizwan Ahmed, Hussain Asghar, Fawad Hasan Fawad and Jawad Rafique Malik.[2][3]

He retired from civil service in BPS-22 grade, having worked in senior bureaucratic positions such as the Railways Secretary, Petroleum Secretary, SAFFRON Secretary, Federal Secretary Aviation and Chief Secretary of both Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.[4]

He is the son-in-law of Saeed Mehdi, the former Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister of Pakistan and Chief Secretary Sindh. Sikandar was appointed Chief election commissioner by President Arif Alvi in January 2020.[5]

Family

Raja is also related to Amir Ali Ahmad Chief Commissioner Islamabad, Zohaib Ranjha Former SP Investigation (Lahore), Muhammad Ali Former DC Faisalabad, SSP Sarfraz Virk Former DPO Jhang and SP Bilal Zafar Former DPO Chiniot.[citation needed] Raja is the son-in-law of Saeed Mehdi; a former top bureaucrat who served as Principal Secretary to PM Nawaz Sharif.[citation needed] Raja's wife, Rabab Sikandar, is a serving Customs official who was promoted to the post of Chief Collector Customs by PDM government in 2022.[6]

Career & education

Raja was born in a village near Bhera in district Sargodha. He got his earlier education from government school Bhera after which he joined Cadet College Hasan Abdal where he completed fsc. Post high-school, he went to King Edward Medical University to earn a bachelor's degree in medicine. He also did LLB at Punjab University. He was then inducted into the Pakistan Administrative Service; his first post was Assistant Commissioner Islamabad in 1989.[7]

Raja has been Deputy Commissioner Islamabad and Punjab's provincial Secretary of Communications & Works (C&W), Services and General Administration (S&GAD), and Local Government before briefly serving as ACS (G) in Punjab. He has also served as Chief Secretary for the provinces of Gilgit Baltistan as well as Azad Jammu Kashmir. He remained as Director General Immigration and Passport under the administration of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.[8]

Raja was promoted to the rank of Federal Secretary in 2017. He was Secretary Petroleum from April 2017 till August 2018. In November 2018, Prime Minister Imran Khan appointed Raja as the Railways Secretary of Pakistan and Chairman Pakistan Railways.[9] He served as Railways Secretary and Chairman Pakistan Railways until December 2019.[10]

In January 2020, Imran Khan appointed him to the post of Chief Election Commissioner of Pakistan (CEC) on the recommendation of Sheikh Rasheed, and then army chief, Qamar Bajwa.[11][12][1] He is the first career bureaucrat to be appointed to the role of CEC, after a relevant amendment was made in Election Act (2017). Conventionally, this post has been held by judges of the country's superior judiciary since the passage of the 1973 constitution.[13]

Allegations

Impartiality

Sikandar Sultan Raja is alleged to have shown lack of impartiality in the election process. The Punjab Assembly on 31 July 2022 passed a resolution against him and demanded his resignation as a chief of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).[14]

The resolution stated that: "The only way leading to the country's progress or to pull it out from the prevailing imbroglio is to hold fair and free election. This House relying upon the substantial evidences has its grave concern over the present Election Commission of Pakistan. This House also demands the Chief Election Commissioner and the Election Commission of Pakistan members to immediately resign so that all political parties could form the non-controversial and acceptable Election Commission of Pakistan which is the need of the hour."[15]

Appointment of Bureaucrats as Electoral Officers

For the first time in Pakistan's electoral history since 1985, Sikandar Sultan employed the services of the highly politicized[16] executive bureaucracy, particularly Assistant Commissioners and Deputy Commissioners, in the key electoral roles of Returning Officers (RO) and District Returning Officers (DRO).[17] These ROs and DROs are engaged in all stages of the electoral process: from screening applicants to consolidation of vote counts, and, finally, provisionally notifying winning candidates.[18] Traditionally, these posts have been occupied by the lower judiciary of the country.[19]

On 14 December 2023, Justice Ali Baqar Najafi of the Lahore High Court suspended the Election Commission's decision on the petition of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) that questioned the apparent bias of the appointed bureaucrats.[20] However, the next day, a three-member bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, consisting of Qazi Faez Isa, Mansoor Ali Shah, and Sardar Tariq Masood, set aside this ruling and allowed the DROs and ROs to be notified from the bureaucracy, meanwhile stopping LHC from undertaking further proceedings on the petition citing over-reach of authority.[21]

On 30 December 2023, these ROs rejected a majority of the nomination papers filed by the leadership of PTI, including those of the party's chief, Imran Khan. PTI's general secretary, Omer Ayub Khan, termed the rejections as "pre-poll rigging".[22] The party challenged these rejections in the courts.[23] Many of these rejections were then reversed by the courts.[24][25][26]

When the general elections were conducted on 8 February 2024, some of these ROs were alleged to have tampered with provisional consolidated counts (Form 47) to make PTI candidate lose seats. PTI leaders filed several appeals in courts regarding these results.[27][28][29]

References

  1. ^ a b "Sikandar Sultan Raja named new CEC | The Express Tribune".
  2. ^ "AJK chief secretary Jalal Sikandar Sultan Raja transferred".
  3. ^ "ECP - Election Commission of Pakistan". www.ecp.gov.pk. Retrieved 2023-01-28.
  4. ^ "Pakistan State Oil : Petroleum secretary opens PSO retail outlet - 4-Traders". 27 December 2017.
  5. ^ "President Alvi formally appoints Sikandar Sultan Raja as CEC". theFrontierPost.com. 2020-01-28. Retrieved 2023-08-08.
  6. ^ Web Desk (2022-07-07). "Federal govt promotes CEC Sikandar Raja's wife". ARY NEWS. Retrieved 2024-02-15.
  7. ^ "Sikandar Sultan Raja appointed DG Passports". Abdalians.com. 2013-07-17. Retrieved 2018-07-22.
  8. ^ "Sikandar Sultan Raja". www.ppl.com.pk.
  9. ^ "Establishment Division Notifies Promotion Of Officers".
  10. ^ "Railways To Be Transformed Into Profitable Entity With Help Of Staffers: Minister". UrduPoint. 2019-11-30. Retrieved 2020-01-17.
  11. ^ "How Raja was appointed CEC". www.thenews.com.pk. Retrieved 2024-02-15.
  12. ^ Dawn.com (2022-08-03). "Can the country be 'held back' just to appoint army chief, asks Imran". DAWN.COM. Retrieved 2024-02-15.
  13. ^ Malik, Farid (2 November 2022). "Botched selection of CEC". Pakistan Today.
  14. ^ "Punjab Assembly passes resolution against CEC Sikandar Sultan Raja". The News. 2022-07-31. Retrieved 2023-05-18.
  15. ^ "Punjab Assembly passes resolution against CEC". The Express Tribune. 2022-07-31. Retrieved 2023-05-18.
  16. ^ Tanwir, Maryam; Fennell, Shailaja (2010). "Pakistani Bureaucracy and Political Neutrality: A Mutually Exclusive Phenomenon?". The Pakistan Development Review. 49 (3): 239–259. ISSN 0030-9729.
  17. ^ Sheikh, Wajih Ahmed (2023-12-14). "ECP bans govts from transferring election officials". DAWN.COM. Retrieved 2023-12-30.
  18. ^ US Election Observation Mission to Pakistan - General Elections 2008 (PDF). Democracy International. 30 April 2008. p. 21. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 February 2024.
  19. ^ Mahmud, Tariq (2018-04-06). "Should the judiciary conduct the elections?". The Express Tribune. Retrieved 2024-02-15.
  20. ^ Report, Recorder (2023-12-15). "Bureaucrats' appointment as DROs, ROs: LHC suspends ECP notification". Business Recorder. Retrieved 2023-12-30.
  21. ^ Bhatti, Haseeb (2023-12-15). "SC suspends LHC order against RO appointments, orders ECP to issue election schedule tonight". DAWN.COM. Retrieved 2023-12-30.
  22. ^ "Ex-PM Khan aides decry rejection of election nominations, allege 'pre-poll rigging'". Arab News PK. 2023-12-30. Retrieved 2023-12-30.
  23. ^ Gabol, Imran (2023-12-30). "Rejections aplenty for PTI as scrutiny phase of nomination papers for elections ends". DAWN.COM. Retrieved 2023-12-30.
  24. ^ Iqbal, Nasir (2024-01-27). "SC allows Parvez Elahi, four others to contest polls". DAWN.COM. Retrieved 2024-02-10.
  25. ^ Tanoli, Ishaq (2024-01-19). "Respite for GDA as SHC allows Fehmida, Zulfiqar Mirza to contest elections". DAWN.COM. Retrieved 2024-02-10.
  26. ^ "PTI's Yasmin Rashid, others allowed to contest elections". Pakistan Today. 19 January 2024.
  27. ^ "LHC suspends RO's Form-47 prepared in Raja's absence". The Express Tribune. 2024-02-09. Retrieved 2024-02-09.
  28. ^ Web Desk (2024-02-10). "Haleem Adil challenges results of NA-238 in SHC". GNN - Pakistan's Largest News Portal. Retrieved 2024-02-10.
  29. ^ "Candidates move PHC against alleged rigging". www.thenews.com.pk. Retrieved 2024-02-10.