Tuesday November 28, 2023

Release funds for elections, SC orders SBP

Three-member bench headed by CJP Umar Ata Bandial grills AGP over govt’s stance on case

April 14, 2023
A billboard pointing towards the Supreme Court. — SC website/File
A billboard pointing towards the Supreme Court. — SC website/File

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Friday ordered the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to release funds for the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa elections, deepening the rift with the federal government.

A three-member SC bench, comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar, issued the directives after an in-chamber hearing.

On April 04, the apex court directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to hold elections in Punjab on May 14, and the federal government to provide funds amounting to Rs21 billion to the electoral body by April 10.

However, the ECP submitted a report to the apex court on Tuesday stating that the federal government had not provided funds for the polls.

Subsequently, notices were issued to the concerned officials to appear before the court and explain the delay.

In line with the summons, SBP Deputy Governor Sima Kamil, special secretary finance, additional secretary finance, ECP Secretary Omar Hameed and Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan appeared before the bench today, sources told Geo News.

During the hearing, according to sources, judges expressed annoyance over the non-implementation of the court orders and told the government that the orders will have to be implemented.

The officials, privy to the details, said that AGP Awan was grilled over the government’s stance during the hearing.

"The federal government implemented the April 4 order of the Supreme Court," the AGP told the bench. He added that the government also tabled a bill in the National Assembly for the release of funds from the Federal Consolidated Funds.

"The government cannot ask the SBP to issue the funds after the rejection of the bill from the parliament," AGP Awan said as per sources.

In a written order issued later in the day, the bench observed that according to presentations by central bank and Finance Divison officials, the amount of Rs21 billion required by the ECP could be disbursed "immediately and within a day".

It directed the State Bank to send "appropriate communication" in this regard to the Finance Division immediately, following which the latter would issue instructions to the Accountant General Pakistan Revenues (AGPR) for the release of funds. All this must be done by the end of the business day on April 17, the court instructed.

"The sum of Rs21 billion shall become available to and with the Election Commission in immediately releasable and utilizable funds for the purposes of holding the general elections to the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies."

The apex court directed the State Bank and Finance Division to submit separate reports on April 18 about the order's implementation and the ECP to submit a report confirming that it received the funds.