Pakistan: Supreme Court asks top officials to appear before it over poll funds

The poll panel informed the apex court about the government’s reluctance to release the amount required for elections

Police officers stand guard outside the Supreme Court in Islamabad. — AP file
Police officers stand guard outside the Supreme Court in Islamabad. — AP file


Published: Wed 12 Apr 2023, 5:20 PM

Last updated: Wed 12 Apr 2023, 5:38 PM

Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered top officials to appear before it on April 14 with relevant records to show why funds were not released for holding snap elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa despite clear instructions.

The apex court last week ordered the federal government to provide Rs21 billion to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) by April 10 to enable it to organise polls in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. It also asked the election body to submit a report about availability of funds on April 11.

However, instead of releasing the funds, the government introduced a bill in the parliament to authorise the release of required funds for the ECP to elections.

It is not clear so far if the government succeeded to implement the court orders regarding provision of finances or if it was just an effort to delay the release of funds to influence the ECP.

Elections are due to be held on May 14 in Punjab but the date for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa elections has not been decided as yet.

Following the instructions, the ECP submitted its report on the specified date, informing the court about the government’s reluctance to issue the amount needed for elections.

The court issued notices to the finance secretary, head of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Attorney General and the ECP over the government’s failure to disburse the sum and asked the officials to appear in court on April 14.

The SC registrar in the notice stated that the court noted that the ECP had stated that no funds were released and provided to it.

“The failure of the federal government to comply with the order of the court as aforesaid is prima facie disobedience,” according to the notice.

“The consequences that can flow from such prima facie defiance of the court are well settled and known…Every person who embarks upon, encourages or instigates disobedience or defiance of the court can be held liable and accountable,” the notice pointed out.

“The question of the provision of funds for such a vital constitutional purpose is something that requires immediate attention which takes priority over proceeding against those who may have committed contempt of the court,” it added.

The language of the notice shows that the court is upset at the defiance shown by the federal government. It asked the relevant officials to bring all relevant records while ordering the ECP to submit a report about preparation of elections.

Meanwhile, the ‘Charged Sum for General Election (Provincial Assemblies of Punjab & Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) Bill 2023’ had not been taken up for voting by either house of the parliament, creating uncertainty about its fate.

The failure to go against the court orders is considered as a contempt and action is taken.

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