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ISLAMABAD: National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance and Revenue is said to have taken suo motu notice in response to media reports that Supreme Court had directed the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to release funds to Election Commission of Pakistan without prior approval of the National Assembly.

Officials documents seen by Business Recorder reveal that the Finance Division apprised the Cabinet on April 17, 2023 that Supreme Court announced its decision on the Constitution Petition No. 5 of 2023 titled “Mohammad Sibtain Khan and others vs ECP and others” on April 04, 2023 and issued directions to the Federal Government to release and to provide to the Election Commission of Pakistan funds in the sum of Rs.21 billion for the purpose of the general elections for the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assemblies forthwith and in any case by April 10, 2023.

The Finance Division placed the direction of the Supreme Court before the Federal Cabinet on April 09, 2023, which directed the Finance Division to place them before the Cabinet for its consideration, for onwards placement of an appropriate Bill before Parliament.

In response to SC order SBP acts obligingly

Accordingly, the Bill “charged sums for General Election (Provincial Assemblies of the Punjab and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) Act, 2023” was laid before the National Assembly which was not approved by the National Assembly.

After submission of the report by Election Commission of Pakistan on April 17, 2023, Supreme Court issued a notice to summon officials of state Bank of Pakistan, Finance Division and Election Commission of Pakistan on April 14, 2023 at 11:00 am for hearing. On that date, a report was submitted by the Finance Division to the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

Subsequent to the hearing, the Supreme Court of Pakistan passed the following directions in para-6 of its order of April 14, 2023: (i) State Bank of Pakistan shall from Account-1 lying under its control and management (and which constitutes the principal component of the Federal Consolidated Fund) forthwith allocate and release Rs. 21 billion for purposes of the General Elections to the Punjab and KP Assemblies. The State Bank shall in this regard immediately send an appropriate communication to the Finance Ministry/ Division.

The Ministry/ Division shall forthwith and immediately issue a proper direction to the AGPR to increase the limit of the ceiling with respect to the Election Commission’s ID2826 by the said sum of Rs. 21 billion. This position shall also immediately be confirmed to the Election Commission by the said Ministry/ Division which shall also ensure that AGPR also forthwith gives proper intimation and confirmation to the Election Commission. All this must be done at the earliest and at the absolute latest not later than the close of business on Monday i.e. April 17, 2023.

In this manner, the sum of Rs. 21 billion shall be and become available to and with the Election Commission in immediately releasable and utilizable funds for the purposes of holding the general elections to the Punjab and KP Assemblies.

All the entities, i.e., the State Bank, Finance Ministry/ Division, AGPR and the Election Commission must act together and coordinate fully so that the order and direction of the Court is implemented within the stipulated timeframe; and (ii) State Bank and the Finance Ministry/ Division shall by April 18, 2023 file compliance reports with this Court (SC) to the effect that order of the Court has been complied with, and the report of the Finance Ministry/ Division shall also include a confirmation in relation to AGPR.“ It was stated that the State Bank of Pakistan through its letter of April 17, 2023 informed the Finance Division that it had done the needful as far as allocating the sum of Rs 21 billion from Account No. 1 of the Federal Consolidated Fund is concerned.

The National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance and Revenue had taken suo moto notice in response to media reports that Supreme Court had directed the State Bank of Pakistan to release funds to Election Commission of Pakistan without prior approval of the National Assembly and called a meeting on April 17, 2023.

After deliberations, the NA Standing Committee decided as follows: “After threadbare discussion, the Standing Committee resolved and directed the Finance Division that in order to comply with the orders of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of Pakistan and the Constitutional scheme provided for authorization and release of funds for the purposes of General Election, the matter may be placed before the National Assembly in the form of a Bill through the Federal Cabinet.

This has been necessitated because of the fact that the Supreme Court of Pakistan in its order of April 17, 2023 had also directed the Finance Division to adopt the constitutional procedure by way of ex-post facto approvals. In order to avoid any future complications whereby the funds are released and ex-post facto approvals are not granted the above course has been recommended. In view of the urgency involved in the matter the Finance Division is further directed to act immediately to do the needful.“

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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