On Monday, the Finance Minister Ishaq Dar presented a bill to the Parliament in both the lower and upper houses, with the intention of securing funds for organizing elections in the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces. This bill was introduced in accordance with the directives given by the Supreme Court of the country.
The Supreme Court had previously declared May 14 as the date for the elections to be held in the Punjab province, and instructed the federal government to disburse election funds worth Rs21 billion to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) by April 10 (which is today) for the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies.
As the deadline set by the Supreme Court approached, the government held a federal cabinet meeting on Sunday and decided to seek approval from the parliament.
The bill presented to the parliament, titled as the ‘Charged Sum for General Election (Provincial Assemblies of Punjab & Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) Bill 2023’, stipulated that the expenses required for holding elections in both the provinces will be considered “an expenditure charged upon the Federal Consolidated Fund (FCF)”.
The FCF includes all revenue received by the federal government, all loans raised by the government, and all money received by it in repayment of any loan.
The bill that was presented to the parliament contained a clause stating that it will take precedence over any other existing laws and regulations, and shall be applicable even if there are contradictory provisions in other laws. This would be effective as long as the bill is enforced.
Moreover, the bill mentioned that it would be nullified once the elections for both assemblies were held, even if the general elections and the polls for the Sindh and Balochistan assemblies were not yet held.
The bill was initially introduced in the National Assembly, followed by the Senate, and both sessions were later adjourned.
In his address to the lower house of the parliament, the Finance Minister Ishaq Dar heavily criticized the policies of the PTI government, which, in his opinion, led the country towards a looming economic crisis.
He mentioned that when the current government came into power in April of the previous year, the country’s economy was in disarray. He also pointed out that due to the incumbent government’s failure, Pakistan’s economy dropped from the 24th to the 47th position.
Furthermore, Dar accused the PTI of attempting to create a constitutional crisis in the country and spreading unrest and despair among the people.
He also criticized the previous government for not only failing to comply with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreement but also working against its terms and conditions.
However, the Finance Minister ensured the parliament that the government was working hard to complete the IMF program, and the staff-level agreement would be signed soon.
Dar also explained that the recent price hikes and policy decisions introduced by the current government were necessary to avoid an economic default. Despite the loss of political capital, he said that the government was now focused on the country’s development.
In his speech, Dar accused the PTI of dissolving the Punjab and KP assemblies as part of a “planned conspiracy” to create a constitutional crisis in the country.
He also criticized PTI lawmakers for resigning from the National Assembly, which he considered disrespectful to the public mandate.
Lastly, Dar stated that conducting elections in the country was a constitutional obligation. However, he emphasized that it was crucial to hold polls simultaneously across the country under caretaker governments.
The Finance Minister emphasized that the parliamentary sovereignty is a reality and under the Constitution of Pakistan, it is crucial to maintain it. He stated that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is responsible for conducting free and fair elections, but considering the current economic and security situation, holding elections at this time would not be in the country’s best interest.
Dar referred to the recent judgments of the Supreme Court as “minority” judgments and parliament had urged the government not to implement them. He added that the federal cabinet had decided to discuss the release of election funds ordered by the Supreme Court in parliament.
The bill has been referred to the relevant committee, announced the NA Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf. The National Assembly session has been adjourned until April 13 (Thursday) at 2 pm. The Minister stressed that this move would help save money and ensure free, fair, and transparent elections.
After concluding his speech in the National Assembly, the finance minister proceeded to the Senate to present a copy of the same bill.
“I request permission to lay before the Senate a copy of the money bill to charge the sums upon the FCF for charging sum for general elections to the provincial assemblies of the Punjab and KP as required under Article 73 of the Constitution,” he stated.
The Senate Chairman, Sadiq Sanjrani, announced that the members could submit their proposals for recommendations on the money bill to the Senate Secretariat by 10am on Thursday, April 13, 2023.
He continued, “The proposals received for making recommendations on the money bill shall be sent to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Revenue which shall submit its report by Friday, April 14, 2023.”
On Friday, he added, the upper house of parliament would consider the committee’s report and make recommendations to the National Assembly accordingly. He then adjourned the session until 10am on Friday.