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Election funds allocated but don’t have authority to release, SBP tells NA panel

ISLAMABAD, APR 17: State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Acting Governor Sima Kamil on Monday informed the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Finance that the regulator has allocated Rs21 billion for the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to conduct polls in Punjab on the directives of the Supreme Court, however, it does not have the authority to release funds directly.

The Supreme Court on April 14 directed the central bank to release funds worth Rs21 billion for elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and send an “appropriate communication” to this effect to the finance ministry by Monday (April 17).

A special meeting of the NA panel was summoned today as the deadline given to the SBP for releasing funds to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) ends today.

The bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar, conducted an in-chamber hearing last week regarding the non-implementation of its April 4 order to the federal government to release the funds.

The directives came after the electoral body submitted a report informing the apex court that the Ministry of Finance has failed to release funds as directed by the three-member bench on April 4.

Law Minister Senator Azam Nazir Tarar informed the panel that Ministry of Finance had already said that it does not have sufficient funds to hold elections in Punjab on May 14.

“Spending twice on elections is not in the country’s interest”, the law minister said, adding that the apex court had directed the central bank to manage the funds.

He maintained that the trustees of government funds are elected representatives of the people.

It should be noted that Finance Minister Ishaq Dar was also summoned; however, he would not be available today as he is in Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah — according to sources.

PML-N leader Barjees Tahir added that if SBP releases funds directly to the electoral body it will be against the law.

“How can the Supreme Court direct the SBP to release funds?” Tahir questioned, adding that if elections are held in Punjab separately it will affect the results of the general elections of other three provinces later.

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