The Election Commission of Pakistan on Tuesday informs Supreme Court regarding development on the issuance of funds from the State Bank of Pakistan for Punjab elections.
On Tuesday ECP submitted a report stating that it has not yet received Rs21 billion required for holding elections to the Punjab Assembly on 14th May.
Earlier the three member bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial comprising Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar, directed the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to release funds to Election Commission for polls in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by 17th April (Monday).
The Supreme Court (SC) in its verdict declares the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) 22nd March order to postpone Elections in Punjab null and void ordering to hold poll by 14th of May.
The Supreme Court declared the ECP’s order postponing the provincial assembly elections until October 8 as “unconstitutional” and ordered the government to release Rs21 billion funds for elections in Punjab by 10th April. The Supreme Court in its verdict also directed Finance Ministry to release funds worth Rs21 billion to ECP by 10th April.
However, after having a long debate in the parliament, the coalition government decided to not implement the order.
The electoral watch dog informed the Top court that it had not received the required funds from the ministry after which the three-member bench directed the State bank to release funds “directly”.
“On a consideration of all of the foregoing, it is our view that there is absolutely no difficulty or hitch, either financially or procedurally or in terms of the relevant authorisation by and under the Constitution, for the immediate release of Rs21bn to the election commission for fulfilling its constitutional mandate for the holding of general elections to the Punjab and KP Assemblies,” the SC had stated in its order.
The court directed the state bank to allocate and release Rs21 billion from “Account I lying under its control and management (and which constitutes the principal component of the Federal Consolidated Fund)” for elections in Punjab and KP.
Federal Cabinet Meeting
Earlier Federal Cabinet under the chair of PM Shehbaz Sharif holds a meeting and decided to forward the matter of releasing Rs.21 billion funds for Punjab Polls to the National Assembly.
This was decided in a meeting of the standing committed chaired by its chairman Qaiser Ahmed Sheikh. Law Minister Senator Azam Nazir Tarar, Attorney General Mansoor Usman Awan, deputy governor SBP Seema Kamil, Auditor General Muhammad Ajmal Gondal, Trade and Commerce Minister Syed Naveed Qamar and others attended the meeting.
Briefing the committee members, Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar said the Supreme Court has ordered to provide funds for Punjab elections, but there were no funds kept for the elections this year in the Federal Consolidated Fund.
Law Minister Senator Azam Nazeer Tarar informed the panel that the Ministry of Finance had already said that it does not have sufficient funds to hold elections in Punjab on May 14.
“Spending twice on elections is not in the country’s interest”, the law minister said, adding that the apex court had directed the central bank to arrange the funds.
Meanwhile The deputy governor SBP Seema Kamil said they have allocated Rs.21 billion for the Punjab elections as per the Supreme Court’s ruling, but the central bank does not has the authority to release the funds directly.
Meanwhile, State Minister for Finance and Revenue Aisha Ghaus Pasha emphasised that the SBP cannot spend money without the permission of the parliament.
“If the National Assembly allows funds can be released [to the ECP],” she said, clarifying that even the Finance Division cannot spend without seeking permission from the cabinet and the lower house.
Now today the ECP submitted a report today stating that it has not received the funds from the State bank as per Supreme Court’s order.
Separately, the State bank also submitted its report highlighting all the reasons supporting their argument that “they can allocate funds; however, did not have the authority to release funds directly”.
The officials from the Ministry of Finance also submitted the report to the Supreme Court registrar’s office which included details of the developments that took place since the Top Court directives were issued.
These reports mentioned all legal aspects of releasing funds and the concerns raised by the cabinet and parliament.
All three reports will now be sent to the three-member bench in their chambers.
Intelligence Agencies Brief SC on Security Issues
Top officials of intelligence agencies today met with Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial and other two other court judges who are hearing a case related to the elections in Punjab on 14th May.
According to sources, ISI and MI chiefs gave a briefing to the judges on the security issues of the country.
Sources further revealed that the meeting between the judges and the security officials continued for over two hours in the CJP’s chamber.