Ishaq Dar submits a bill to the legislature requesting authorization for election funding.
Elections for all assemblies should take place on the same day.
He continues, “This will cut costs and guarantee fair elections.”
He claims that making decisions now falls to the legislature.
On Monday, Ishaq Dar, the federal minister of finance and revenue, introduced a bill to appropriate money for the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa general elections. It was done just hours before the Supreme Court’s deadline to pay Rs21 billion to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) expired.
Minutes after the federal cabinet approved a summary prepared by the Ministry of Finance regarding the cost of elections, a bill titled “Charged Sums for General Elections of Provincial Assemblies of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Bill 2023″ was introduced in both the National Assembly and Senate of Parliament.
In its ruling on April 4, the Supreme Court ordered the federal government to disburse and give the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) money totalling Rs21 billion by April 10 for elections.
The finance minister stated that it is now up to the Parliament to decide whether or not funds for ECP should be given when introducing the bill in the National Assembly.
Dar stated his opinions in the lower house, claiming that the security and economic circumstances prevented the country from benefiting from the hasty elections that the high court had ordered.
The finance minister stated, “Elections in all assemblies should be held on the same date,” adding that the government submitted this bill to the legislature in response to the Supreme Court’s directives to give Rs 21 billion to the ECP.
The finance czar noted that the lower house had also adopted a resolution declaring that the Supreme Court’s ruling on the suo motu notice regarding the holding of elections in Punjab was a minority decision, 4-3 and that it “should not be implemented.”
He continued by saying that the federal cabinet had recently discussed the orders of the Supreme Court and, in light of this NA’s resolution, had asked the Parliament for permission to make a final decision regarding the distribution of funds for the general elections for the Punjab and KP provincial assemblies.
Elections held simultaneously will result in lower costs.
According to the finance minister, the coalition government firmly believes in the Constitution, the rule of law, and the sovereignty of the Parliament.
Dar argued that while holding elections is a constitutional requirement, they must be held concurrently under caretaker arrangements for the national and provincial assemblies.
He claimed this would cut costs and guarantee free, transparent, and fair elections.
The finance czar noted that the PTI administration had breached the sovereign pledges made with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), bringing Pakistan to default. He added that this also damaged Pakistan’s credibility.
IMF bailout package
A stalling IMF bailout package and a bitter political conflict between the administration and former prime minister Imran Khan have put Pakistan in danger of defaulting on its debt.
With its foreign exchange reserves hovering around $4.2 billion, barely covering one month’s worth of imports, the cash-strapped country desperately needs money.
The session was suspended and adjourned until Thursday, April 13, at 2 p.m. by Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf, who forwarded the bill to the relevant NA standing committee.
Following the development, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) registered strong protests against the story, calling out the coalition government for their “ill practices”.
“A year after regime change conspiracy, puppet Crime Minister [and] his gang’s strings being pulled to formalize fascism using [parliament] to stop elections [and] end [independence] of the judiciary,” former human’s rights minister and senior PTI leader Shireen Mazari wrote on Twitter.
The National Assembly
The National Assembly’s resolution from the previous day, April 6, was considered when the cabinet decided to refer the matter of the funds’ disbursement to the legislature a day earlier.
The house requested in the resolution that the government not carry out the three-member bench’s ruling ordering the ECP to hold the Punjab Assembly elections on May 14 since it was illegal and unconstitutional.
Instead, the National Assembly reaffirmed in the resolution that the majority judgment rendered by four judges would be valid.
The federal cabinet ordered the finance minister to write a report for the disbursement of elections funds for the direction of the Parliament after instructing him to postpone his travel to the US on Sunday.
Azam Nazeer Tarar, the law minister, gave a briefing to the cabinet on all the legal and constitutional issues of the Supreme Court orders and the funding release to the ECP on Sunday.