ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Monday rejected a motion seeking a supplementary sum of Rs21 billion to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for general elections in Punjab, putting the fate of elections in jeopardy as Supreme Court of Pakistan’s deadline to issue funds for polls in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa ended.
As the apex court had issued orders to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to release Rs21 billion by April 17 (Monday) for elections in two provinces from Federal Consolidated Fund (FCF) “lying under its control and management”.
It had also instructed the SBP to send an “appropriate communication” to this effect to the Finance Ministry in this regard.
A motion was moved in National Assembly by Law and Justice Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar as recommended by the NA standing committee on finance which – earlier in the day – to place the issue of releasing funds to ECP before the parliament.
However, during the session, the law minister said that the ECP, in exercise of its power, had delayed polls in Punjab till October citing the lack of finances and the security situation.
“In such economic circumstances if elections are held again and again for the sake of one man’s ego, it is not in the country’s interest,” he added.
He went on to say that the federal government, in light of the apex court’s directives, had presented a bill in the National Assembly for treating the funds required as a charged expenditure, but this house after thorough deliberations rejected the bill.
He noted that the SBP was directed by the apex court to transfer Rs21billion to the ECP from the FCF but added that under the constitution only the lower house of parliament could give the approval for doing so.
He said that the NA standing committee had told the Finance Division to take this matter to the cabinet which then referred the matter to the NA which had the authority to approve or disapprove additional expenses under Articles 82 (2) and 84 of the Constitution.
He then presented a motion seeking a supplementary sum of Rs21bn to meet the expenditures for elections in Punjab. The motion was subsequently rejected by the House and the NA session was later adjourned till noon tomorrow (Tuesday).
Meanwhile, the house paid tributes to Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Mufti Abdul Shakoor, who died in a traffic incident, last week.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif acknowledged the services and contribution of late Shakoor for making the best arrangements on the last Hajj.
Talking about the precarious economic situation of the country, he said Mufti Abdul Shakoor was very concerned in this regard.
He said in view of that Mufti Abdul Shakoor proposed to invite overseas Pakistanis to sponsor their loved ones or themselves by sending foreign exchange for Hajj this year.
He said the cabinet approved that proposal, which was a great contribution of Mufti Abdul Shakoor to raise the foreign exchange reserves of Pakistan.
However, Sharif announced that Saudi Arabia has deposited $2 billion and another $1 billion by the United Arab Emirates to increase the foreign exchange reserves of Pakistan, fulfilling another condition of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The resolution passed a resolution and commended late Mufti Shakoor’s special efforts in convincing the Saudi authorities to reduce Hajj expenditures for Pakistani pilgrims.
It demanded conferring a national award on late Mufti Abdul Shakoor.
The other lawmakers also paid rich tributes to the late federal minister. Speaking on the occasion, Khawaja Asif of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) raised question on $3 billion received during the PTI government as loan.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023