ISLAMABAD: Parliament has once again refused to provide Rs21 billion to the Election Commission Pakistan to hold general elections in Punjab.
The National Assembly on Monday by a majority vote rejected the supplementary demand to provide Rs21 billion to the federal government to meet the expenditure other than charged during the current fiscal year in respect of the ECP to hold general elections in Punjab.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) supported the demand while the government members opposed it and subsequently, the House rejected the motion by majority vote. Earlier, the National Assembly first approved the report of the Standing Committee on the issue of providing funds for elections in Punjab in which the standing committee recommended not to release the funds without the approval of the National Assembly.
Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar moved the report of the Standing Committee on Finance and Revenue on the matter to discuss and propose recommendations in response to media reports that the Supreme Court directed the State Bank of Pakistan to release funds to the ECP for the purpose of holding a poll in Punjab without prior approval of the National Assembly.
The National Assembly adopted the standing committee report, following which the law minister moved a summary to grant Rs21 billion to the federal government to meet the expenditure of holding elections in Punjab. The House rejected the supplementary demand with a majority vote.
The National Assembly also paid tributes to Late Minister for Religious Affairs Mufti Abdul Shakoor. Speaking in the National Assembly, the law minister said that the federal cabinet had referred the matter to the National Assembly which had the authority to approve or disapprove additional expenses under Articles 82 (2) and 84 of the Constitution.
He said the amounts in the Federal Consolidated Fund except charged expenditure could be only given after approval of the House as no other institution had any authority in that regard. He said the Supreme Court in its order directed to get ex-post facto approval of it but the Standing Committee on Finance had directed the Finance Division to take up the issue in the federal cabinet and deliberate it in the form of a demand or bill.
He said the appropriate forum was the National Assembly, “which accords approval of expenses from the Federal Consolidated Fund” and that was why the cabinet had referred the matter to the House. He said that this House passed the resolution to hold elections on the same day in the whole country.
He said the Supreme Court had ordered the State Bank to release the money from the Federal Consolidated Fund, adding that the cabinet and the standing committee referred the matter to House.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Khawaja Asif demanded an investigation into $3 billion soft loans, claiming that during the coronavirus pandemic, Pakistan got a loan of $3 billion on soft terms and the money was given by the previous government to its favourites. “If $3 billion is correct then its details should be given to the Standing Committee on Finance as the machinery procured from this loan from outside has not even been redeemed,” he said.
The Defense Minister said $3 billion dollars has been distributed by the PTI government in the name of loans and the details of all these people should be given who were given the soft loans. “The House has the right to ask for details,” he said.
Speaker National Assembly Raja Pervez Ashraf referred the matter to the Standing Committee of Finance and Revenues and directed that report be submitted to the National Assembly. Earlier, the federal cabinet referred the summary of the Finance Ministry regarding the provision of funds to the ECP for elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to the National Assembly.
The cabinet meeting on Monday under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. The forum expressed deep sorrow and grief over the death of Mufti Abdul Shakoor in a car accident and also offered Fateha for the departed soul.
Addressing the meeting the prime minister paid tribute to the religious and political services of the late Mufti Abdul Shakoor. He said that Mufti Sahib was a practising Muslim scholar and a person with immense knowledge.
The forum also congratulated Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman for her inclusion by the Times magazine in the list of the world’s 100 most influential leaders for raising an influential voice regarding climate change.
Meanwhile, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) informed the National Standing Committee on Finance that the central bank allocated funds of Rs21 billion for holding elections in Punjab under the directives of the Supreme Court but they did not possess the authority to release these funds.
SBP acting Governor Seema Kamil told the parliamentary panel that in order to comply with the order of the apex court, the SBP allocated funds of Rs21 billion for holding elections in Punjab but it was not the authority of the central bank to release these allocated funds.
The special meeting of the NA panel held under the chairmanship of ruling party MNA Qaiser Ahmed Sheikh here at the Parliament House on Monday in which it was directed to the Ministry of Finance to prepare and submit a summary to the federal cabinet and then it should be tabled before the National Assembly. The special meeting of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance was attended by Federal Minister for Law Nazeer Tarar, Minister for Commerce Syed Naveed Qamar, Attorney General for Pakistan Mansor Usman, Auditor General of Pakistan Ajmal Gondal on special invitation. Minister of State for Finance Aisha Ghaus Pasha, Special Assistant to PM on Finance Tariq Bajwa, and Acting Governor SBP Seema Kamil also attended the meeting.
The SBP acting governor told the panel that they received notice from the apex court with regard to the money of the federal government lying in the account of the government and whether these funds can be provided to the ECP for holding polls in Punjab. The SBP, she said, told the apex court that they could allocate funds but could not release these funds. These funds after allocating would remain in the account of the government. These funds after sanctioning by the Finance Ministry could be released with the consent of the AGPR.
Minister for Law Nazeer Tarar informed the NA panel that he wanted to read out the order given by the SC on the issue of holding elections in Punjab and KP but the committee member Barjees Tahir stopped him and stated that holding elections in Punjab would be disastrous because whoever would win in Punjab that party would win in the remaining three provinces as well. If anyone wanted to bring harm to the country then hold elections first in Punjab.
The attorney general told the NA panel that there could be a way to hold elections on account of other expenditures but the Supreme Court ordered to get approval from Parliament. Now the question arises if Parliament did not grant approval till the end of June 2023 then who would be responsible for the release of the funds?
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