ECP to Submit Report on Funds Availability to Top Court Today

Tue Apr 11 2023
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Another round of arguments likely at the top court as the government still seems reluctant in releasing funds


By Special Correspondent


ISLAMABAD: The Shehbaz-led federal government didn’t release Rs 21 billion funds to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for the elections to the Punjab Assembly as the deadline given by the Supreme Court for providing funds expired yesterday.


The top court had, on April 4, set Monday (April 10) as the deadline for the federal government to issue Rs 21 billion funds to the ECP as it directed the ECP to report back to it on Tuesday (today). The government instead of releasing the funds, introduced a bill pertaining to meet expenditures of the general elections in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, in the National Assembly hours before the SC deadline expired.


The bill introduced by Federal Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar and titled “Charged Sums for General Elections of Provincial Assemblies of Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Bill 2023” was presented in both houses of the parliament; National Assembly and the Senate and subsequently referred to the standing committees concerned.


Provincial snap elections are not in Pakistan’s interest given its security situation and the economic turmoil, the country’s finance minister Ishaq Dar said on Monday, in clear defiance of the Supreme Court order given days back. The government would seek a vote on whether to approve the election funding. Nonetheless, it was not clear when a vote would take place.


SC fixes May 14 for Punjab elections


The top court of Pakistan on April 4 declared the order of the ECP regarding delay in polls for Punjab Assembly null and void, ordering polls on May 14. Top court’s three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar, issued the unanimous verdict after hearing arguments from the parties concerned. It also ruled that the Election Commission carried out an unconstitutional act by delaying the elections. The PTI had filed a petition regarding delay in the elections after the ECP on March 22 put off the polls till October 8, citing security and financial constraints.


The apex court had ordered the federal government to provide Rs21 billion funds by April 10, also directing the Election Commission to approach it if the resources are not provided to it by the federal government. It also directed the interim Punjab government to play its constitutional role, besides ordering chief secretary Punjab to finalise a security plan for elections by April 10. Chief Justice Bandial-led bench also ordered the government to ensure the provision of security for the elections.


However, the government didn’t provide funds to the ECP that may cause another round of hearings at the top court. It is yet to be seen what action the supreme court takes in view of the non-provision of funds to the electoral body.


Meanwhile, chief Awami Muslim League, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed has said that by not releasing funds, the government negated the SC decision. “The tactics being used are to impose thieves on the will of the people,” he added. He further said that the federal cabinet met ten times in the past ten days to run away from the apex court verdict and delay polls. He warned that those trampling the constitution would meet dreadful end.

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