Funds for Punjab, K-P polls can be released ‘immediately’


The Supreme Court on Friday ordered the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to launch Rs21 billion to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for holding elections in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and ship an “appropriate communication” to this impact to the finance ministry by Monday (April 17).

“The sum of Rs21bn shall be and become available to and with the election commission in immediately releasable and utilisable funds for the purposes of holding the general elections to the Punjab and K-P assemblies,” the court docket order learn.

The court docket additionally noticed that the required funds may be made obtainable to the ECP “immediately and within a matter of a day”. It additionally famous that there was “absolutely no difficulty or hitch, either financially or procedurally or in terms of the relevant authorisation by and under the Constitution” within the quick launch of the funds in query.

During an in-chamber listening to headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial with Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar in attendance, the highest court docket judges knowledgeable Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Awan that the SC orders should be adopted within the suo motu discover taken over the postponement of the polls on Punjab scheduled for May 14.

In the written order, the Supreme Court stated that the SBP appearing governor had offered to a court docket a press release setting out funds and monies of the federal authorities which had been beneath the central financial institution’s custody, management and administration.

Referring to it, the judges noticed that the SBP appearing governor had defined that these quantities constituted the Federal Consolidated Fund. “The amount lying in Account No I (Non-Food) (“Account I”) constitutes by far the most important part of the Fund (being 98.77 per cent thereof as of the date for which the info was offered),” the court docket order learn.

It added that the SBP official additional defined that the “quantity mendacity in Account I will not be designated for any explicit or particular utilization in any respect.

“Furthermore, the funds therein are not static inasmuch as there are regular (it seems almost daily) inflows into, and outflows therefrom, as government receipts flow in, and monies are released to meet government expenditures.”

The order additional quoted the SBP appearing governor as saying that “other than Account I, the other 16 accounts were for special and designated purposes, carrying different amounts”.

Following this briefing, the order added, the highest court docket’s April 4 verdict was cited to the SBP official and he was instructed that an quantity of Rs21bn was required for holding elections in Punjab and K-P.

“It was queried as to whether this sum could be made available from the funds aforementioned of the federal government lying with and under the custody, control and management of the State Bank, with particular reference to Account I.”

In response, the appearing governor confirmed that this might be performed if the court docket so directed and ordered, the SC order stated.

It added that the SBP “further confirmed that the necessary transaction for the transfer of funds to the commission (ECP), so that Rs21b become immediately available and utilisable for the latter, could be done within the shortest possible time, and at the latest by the close of business on Monday, ie, April 17, 2023”.

Moreover, Finance Ministry Special Secretary Awais Manzur Sumra, with the AGP’s help, additionally gave a presentation to the court docket. This presentation, in broad phrases, was given with regard to the “financial position of the Government of Pakistan, with particular reference also to the present and/or pending international obligations to the IMF (International Monetary Fund)”, the order stated.

The judges noticed within the order that maintaining in view the figures offered to the court docket, “of which even the smallest ran to a number of lots of of billions of rupees, it grew to become clear that the disbursement of Rs21bn for fulfilling the constitutional mandate of holding the overall elections would, at most, quantity to a minuscule improve within the obligations of the federal authorities.

“Indeed, viewed from certain financial perspectives and contexts, which were stated by the team from finance, the amount would be so insignificant as to not even amount to a rounding off error.”

The order additional acknowledged that the workforce from the Finance Division knowledgeable the court docket that the federal government usually went into bond markets to borrow and lift funds “which in the aggregate in any given financial year ran into trillions of rupees”.

The order stated it was acknowledged that on this regard, “treasury bills were issued by the SBP on behalf of the federal government on a regular and ongoing basis and that, even in this perspective, taking the amount now under consideration into account would not have any meaningful impact or effect”.

Moreover, “it was also confirmed by Finance that if the court so ordered and directed the process of making the funds to the tune of Rs21bn available to the commission (ECP) on an immediately utilisable basis would be concluded rapidly, and by the close of business on April 17,2023”.

On the idea of those briefings, the three judges made the next remark: “In our view, on an assessment of the presentations made by the State Bank and the Finance Ministry/Division, there can be no doubt that the Rs21bn required by the commission and ordered to be made available in terms of para 5 of the [April 4] order can be done immediately and within a matter of a day.”

The order additional stated finance ministry officers confirmed to the court docket that when it comes to Article 84 of the Constitution, the federal authorities was “fully authorised to make expenditures from the Federal Consolidated Fund for, inter alia, ‘expenditure upon some new service not included in the Annual Budget Statement’ for the relevant financial year here being the year ending on June 30, 2023”.

The order acknowledged that for such an expenditure, the federal authorities “obtains ex post facto approval and authorisation” from the National Assembly when it comes to the process laid down within the articles of the Constitution instantly previous Article 84.

“On a consideration of all of the foregoing, it is our view that there is absolutely no difficulty or hitch, either financially or procedurally or in terms of the relevant authorisation by and under the Constitution, for the immediate release of Rs21b to the election commission for fulfilling its constitutional mandate for the holding of general elections to the Punjab and K-P Assemblies.”

The court docket directed the SBP to allocate and launch Rs21bn from “Account I lying under its control and management (and which constitutes the principal component of the Federal Consolidated Fund)” for elections in Punjab and K-P.

“The State Bank shall, in this regard, immediately send an appropriate communication to the Finance Ministry/ Division,” the court docket instructed, including that the finance ministry “shall forthwith and immediately issue a proper direction to the AGPR (Accountant General Pakistan Revenues) to increase the limit of the ceiling with respect to the election commission’s ID No.2826 by the said sum of Rs21b”.

This place must also instantly be confirmed to the ECP by the finance ministry, “which shall also ensure that AGPR also forthwith gives proper intimation and confirmation to the election commission,” the court docket directed.

It stated, “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 4, 2023. In this manner, the sum of Rs21bn shall be and become available to and with the election commission in immediately releasable and utilisable funds for the purposes of holding the general elections to the Punjab and KP assemblies.”

The court docket additional directed the SBP, the finance ministry, the AGPR and the ECP to “act together and coordinate fully so that the order and direction of the court is implemented within the stipulated timeframe”.

The apex court docket additionally sought a compliance report from the finance ministry by April 18 (Tuesday), which “shall also include a confirmation in relation to AGPR”. Moreover, it directed the ECP to additionally submit a report by Tuesday that Rs21bn has “become available to it in terms as stated above”.

With regards the federal authorities, the court docket acknowledged: “We may also note that this order shall be deemed sufficient authority for all purposes for the authorisation of expenditure on the Federal Consolidated Fund and the federal government shall thereupon obtain the ex post facto approval and sanction from the National Assembly for authorisation of this expenditure in terms of Article 84 and other applicable provisions of the Constitution”.

The court docket stated that matter “stands adjourned” to the extent of the funds for elections in Punjab and KP, “but should any need arise it will be taken up again in such terms as deemed appropriate by the court”.

Earlier, the AGP submitted on behalf of the federal government a two-page doc to the court docket detailing the federal coalition’s stance on the matter.

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