ISLAMABAD: Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Secretary Babar Yaqoob Malik has apparently given a clean chit to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the disqualification references filed by various political parties. “The ECP cannot take action as long as the vacant seats of its members are not filled,” the secretary said. Talking to media persons at an iftar dinner in Islamabad on Monday, Malik said the ECP received disqualification references from the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, but it could not take action on these references because it was not complete yet. He said the chief election commissioner could not take action on the references as long as the vacant posts of ECP members are not filled. “Though the election commission is not complete at the moment, we are ready to conduct free and fair elections in the country,” he said. At least 32 by-election petitions are pending with the ECP due to retirement of its members. Of these petitions, 22 are related to local council elections and 10 are related to general elections. The secretary said the ECP had advised the government to appoint sitting judges of high courts as members of the constitutional body in consultation with the Supreme Court chief justice, but the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms did not accept this proposal. If the parliamentary committee approves this proposal, he said, the ECP could save a lot of money. He said that political parties trusted the judges. In a related development, the chief election commissioner has written a letter to the prime minister to fill the vacant seats of the ECP members within the time stipulated in the constitution. The constitution binds the government to appoint ECP members within 45 days of retirement of the previous members, he said. He lauded the electoral reform committee method for choosing the ECP members. He said that a committee decision was commendable and through this method the ECP would not face any difficulties in future. He said that a proposal was given to the government to give full powers to the chief election commissioner for a brief period after retirement of the ECP members, but the government rejected this proposal. Malik said the annual review of electoral lists would begin on July 29. He said the ECP was expecting a good number of new voters in new lists. After finalising these lists, he said, the ECP would display them at its regional offices and important places for verification. “The ECP has approved the plan for the annual revision of electoral rolls for the year 2016 in which all new national identity card holders will be made part of the electoral rolls and all voters who have become disqualified (deaths/cancelled national identity cards) will be excluded from the rolls after their door-to-door verification followed by the display process. The voter count is expected to increase from 93 million to 97 or 98 million after the revision process,” he said. According to the plan, he said, the door-to-door verification campaign shall be carried out from August 1 to August 15 and it shall be followed by 21 days of display process starting from August 21. Officials shall visit the permanent addresses of the new national identity card holders for their verification. Simultaneously, votes of dead people shall be cancelled during the door-to-door verification campaign. After verification, lists shall be displayed at designated display centres, offices of the district election commissioners, registration officers and assistant registration officers for public inspection.