SC warns of ‘dire consequences’ over non-provision of election funds

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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday issued notices to major political parties for tomorrow (Thursday) on a petition filed by the defence ministry seeking general elections across Pakistan simultaneously.

A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial, comprising Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar, heard the plea.

A day earlier, the Ministry of Defence moved the Supreme Court (SC) to seek ‘simultaneous elections in the country.

The defence ministry – responsible for allocating armed forces for the elections – has filed an application in Supreme Court, seeking ‘simultaneous elections’ in the country.

The ministry has asked the apex court to recall its April 4 order of holding Punjab elections on May 8 and issue a directive that the general elections for the National and provincial assemblies should take place at the same time, after the completion of their terms.

“The order dated 04-04-2023 be recalled with the directions that the general elections to the National and all Provincial Assemblies be held together, upon completion of the term of the National and the other two Provincial Assemblies Sindh and Balochistan,” it said.

“The RAW [Research and Analysis Wing] identified fault lines to hurt the federation of Pakistan especially [by fanning] ethnic issues, water disputes, [the alleged] resource capture and monopoly of Punjab and as terrorists say in Balochistan, the colonisation by Punjab.

“Therefore, holding of general elections of Punjab Assembly would fuel the situation,” the ministry said in the report.

Today’s hearing
As the hearing commenced, CJP Bandial called Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Awan to the rostrum and instructed him to read out the defence ministry’s report in the courtroom.

CJP Bandial remarked that the matter had been prolonged as the government had given its executive to the parliament.

CJP Bandial remarked that the government had sent matter pertaining to funds for conducting polls to parliament despite assurance that funds would be issued via a supplementary grant.

The AGP told the court that the NA Standing Committee on Finance and Revenue had referred the matter to the cabinet and parliament.

DEFENCE MINISTRY MOVES SC FOR ‘SIMULTANEOUS ELECTIONS’

At this, Justice Muneeb Akhtar asked how the government could be barred from approving a grant.

“The prime minister should have a majority in the NA as well as in financial matters,” he remarked.

The AGP then told court that in the current case, there was sufficient time to seek the NA’s approval before issuing the supplementary grant.

At this, the SC judge asked AGP if he is aware of the consequences of rejecting a supplementary budget.

AGP Awan stated that the right to approve a supplementary grant lay with parliament. He said that the NA had already expressed its opinion regarding the matter at hand through a resolution.

“Parliament has right to approve a supplementary grant,” said AGP.

During the hearing, the CJP observed that the electoral watchdog had stated that polls in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa could not be conducted till October.

“Terrorism is ongoing in the country since 1992,” he said, noting that polls had been held in the country in 1987, 1997, 2002, 2008 and 2013 despite terrorism.

During the hearing, the AGP told the court that except one, all political parties have agreed to negotiate with opposition.

All parties are agreeing to hold talks, AGP Awan said, adding if the court allowed some time, matters could be settled.

“If all the political parties adopt a common stance, the court can make some room,” the chief justice noted.

The top court then issued notices to major political parties for tomorrow (Thursday) and adjourned the proceedings till Thursday, 11:30 am.

Background
It is pertinent to mention here that the Supreme Court – in its April 4 order – declared Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) decision to postpone elections to the Punjab Assembly till October 8 “unconstitutional” and fixed May 14 as new date.

However, the National Assembly later passed a resolution rejecting the three-member Supreme Court bench’s verdict on the Punjab polls, stating that it would not provide funds to the ECP for polls.

Following the government’s move, the Supreme Court (SC) directed the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to release a total of Rs21 billion to the election commission for holding polls, but the central bank did not release the funds even after the deadline passed.