ECP informs SC about non-provision of funds for Punjab polls


ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), in line with the Supreme Court’s order, submitted a report to a three-member bench on Tuesday, stating that it has not yet received Rs21 billion required for holding elections to the Punjab Assembly on May 14.

Last week, the bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar, had directed the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to release funds for polls in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by April 17 (Monday).

The same bench had, in an earlier order, fixed May 14 as the new date for the election to the Punjab Assembly, as it quashed the ECP’s decision to extend the polls date from April 10 to Oct 8.

The Supreme Court had directed the federal government to release funds to the tune of Rs21 billion by April 10 for holding the elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. However, after a prolonged debate in the parliament, the coalition government decided to not implement the order.

The electoral body informed the apex court that it had not received the required funds from the ministry after which the three-member bench directed the central 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 central 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.

The apex court also sought a compliance report from the finance ministry by April 18 (Tuesday), which “shall also include a confirmation in relation to AGPR (Accountant General Pakistan Revenue)”. Moreover, it directed the ECP to also submit a report by Tuesday that Rs21bn has “become available to it in terms as stated above”.

In compliance with the order, the ECP submitted a report today stating that it has not received the funds from the central bank.

Separately, the central 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 registrar’s office which included details of the developments that took place since the directives were issued.

It 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.

A day earlier, the National Assembly approved a resolution of the Standing Committee on Finance and Revenue to not release Rs21 billion for election, despite the apex court’s deadline.

Top intel officials brief SC on security situation
Earlier today, top officials of the intelligence agencies briefed the Supreme Court on the current security challenges being faced by the country regarding elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Geo News reported citing sources.

Justice Ahsan and Justice Akhtar were briefed by the security officials, said the sources. They added that the meeting went on for more than two hours at the CJP’s chamber.

The apex court, in its April 4 order, had directed the government to submit a report regarding the provision of security personnel for polls in the two provinces by April 17.