The Supreme Court on Friday directed the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to release Rs21 billion in funds to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for holding elections for the Punjab Assembly after the federal government failed to provide the sum on the allotted date.
During an in-chamber hearing headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, the top court judges informed Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Awan that the court orders must be followed in the suo motu notice regarding the postponement of Punjab polls.
According to sources, the AGP presented the government’s stance and faced tough questions. The judges expressed their anger regarding the non-disbursement of funds.
The apex court will issue a formal order after Friday prayers.
Before the hearing, the AGP had a meeting with officials from the finance ministry and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif also called on the AGP for consultation.
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Special Secretary Finance Owais Manzoor Samra, Additional Secretary Finance Amar Mehmood and Additional Secretary Finance Tanveer Butt were present at the hearing. Acting Governor State Bank Seema Kamil, Deputy Governor State Bank Inayat Hussain Chaudhry, Director State Bank Qadir Baksh and Protocol Officer State Bank Mohsin Afzal were also present at the hearing.
The ECP secretary, additional secretary and director general of Law ECP were also in attendance.
The government, in a statement to the SC, stated that to “issue any money from the Federal Consolidated Fund and/or create a charge thereon, an Act of Parliament is necessary”, however, the bill for the release of electoral funds was “rejected” by the National Assembly.
“Issuance of any monies from the Federal Consolidated Fund is subject to parliamentary approval, which has been denied to the federal government by the Parliament for the purposes of holding general elections to the Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assemblies”.
The statement continued that “as a consequence” the government was not authorised “under the Constitution to ask the State Bank of Pakistan” for funds.