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Pakistan's top court orders central bank to release funds for elections in 2 key provinces

Pakistan's top court orders central bank to release funds for elections in 2 key provinces

By Islamuddin Sajid

ISLAMABAD (AA) – Pakistan's top court on Friday ordered the central bank to release funds to the Election Commission for snap polls after the government said it was not possible to spare 21 billion rupees ($74.79 million) in funds for elections in two key provinces.

The order issued by a three-member Supreme Court bench, comprising Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, and Justice Munib Akhtar, directed the central bank to release funds by April 17.

"The State Bank and the Finance Ministry/Division shall by 18.04.2023 file compliance reports with this Court to the effect that order of the Court has been complied with," the court said in a written order.

Earlier, the government through the attorney general informed the court that parliament has refused to approve Rs 21 billion for elections to the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies.

According to constitutional experts, the chances of contempt of court proceedings against Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif have reduced following today’s order.

“The chances of contempt proceedings against the premier and Cabinet appear to have reduced as the government has informed the court that they had approved the request as per Court orders but it’s the parliament that has rejected the bill through which approval of the payment was sought. It is clearly just a deflection of responsibility though based on some legal strategy,” prominent Pakistani lawyer Barrister Taimur Malik told Anadolu.

Some commentators called the top court’s order to the central bank unprecedented. However, legal experts viewed that under Article 187 of the Constitution of Pakistan, Supreme Court can pass any order to do complete justice.

The Supreme Court’s judgment is binding on all executive and judicial authorities under Article 189 of the Constitution, Barrister Abuzar Salman Niazi said, adding that under Article 190 (action in aid of Supreme Court) all executive and judicial authorities throughout Pakistan shall act in aid of the Supreme Court.

Imran Khan, former prime minister and chairman of center-right Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, had dissolved his government and provincial assemblies of Punjab and the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in January in an attempt to force the government for snap elections, which otherwise were scheduled in October this year.

Pakistan's Constitution requires fresh elections within 90 days of the dissolution of assemblies, whether provincial or national.

However, the Election Commission had postponed the polls in the two provinces until Oct. 8, the day the general elections are slated to be held, citing financial and security reasons.

Overturning the decision, a three-judge bench, led by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, on April 4, ordered the Election Commission to hold polls in Punjab on May 14.

The government, nonetheless, insists that elections should be held simultaneously throughout the country.

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