The Supreme Court of Pakistan has issued a warning to the government regarding the refusal to release funds for conducting elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, cautioning the ruling Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) coalition of potential “serious consequences” if Rs21 billion are not provided to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
Warning from Supreme Court to Govt is due to the serious consequences of failure to provide funds for polls. This breaking news is hitting the media.
This warning came during a hearing on the defence ministry’s request to hold general elections across Pakistan simultaneously after the terms of the national, Sindh, and Balochistan parliaments were completed.
The defence ministry, headed by Khawaja Asif of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), had filed an application in the Supreme Court on Tuesday, requesting it to retract its April 4 order that had set May 14 as the election date for the parliament of Punjab.
A three-judge bench consisting of Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijaz ul-Ahsan, and Justice Munib Akhtar took up the petition.
Justice Bandial, who had received a briefing from military officials the day before, stated that the Supreme Court had already given a verdict on the Punjab vote and could not backtrack, emphasizing that it was time to “move on.”
Top intelligence officials had briefed the apex court on the security situation a day earlier, with the director general of Military Operations, the director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, and the defence secretary present.
Acknowledging the briefing, Justice Bandial pointed out that it was only given after the Supreme Court had announced its verdict. He said that now that the decision had been made, they could not return and must move forward.
The attorney general for Pakistan (AGP) was called to the rostrum at the beginning of the hearing and asked to read the finance ministry’s report aloud in the courtroom. The report addressed funding for conducting polling in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Justice Bandial remarked that the government had earlier claimed that the required funds would be issued via a supplementary grant, but the matter was eventually sent to parliament.
The AGP explained to the court that the National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance and Revenue had referred the matter to the cabinet and parliament.
Justice Akhtar questioned how the government could be barred from approving a grant, pointing out that most of the committee’s members were part of the government. He emphasized that the Constitution gave the government the right to issue a supplementary grant and asked how the assembly could intervene, stating that it was mandatory to have a majority in “financial matters,” and the prime minister should have a majority in the parliament.
The AGP replied that the right to approve a supplementary grant lay with parliament, and the National Assembly had already expressed its opinion on the matter through a resolution.
Justice Akhtar asked if the government could not have gotten the supplementary grant approved if it was serious and warned that taking post-facto grant approval would be “risky” and that the expenses would be classified as “unconstitutional” if approval was not granted.
Justice Bandial remarked that there was no previous instance of referring administrative matters to the relevant standing committee and noted that the funds spent on the election were a “necessary” expenditure.
During the hearing, the chief justice observed that the electoral watchdog had stated that polls in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa could not be conducted until October, citing the security situation. Justice Bandial questioned what new danger there was for not holding polls in the country, as several questions arose from the ECP’s stance.
The AGP replied and said that security forces had performed their duties at once in the past, but now elections would take place in two provinces separately.