Pakistan’s top court directs central bank to issue funds for snap polls


Islamabad (Reuters) – Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Friday directed the central bank to issue funds for provincial snap polls, a court order said, a day after parliament ruled against provision of the money, deepening a discord between the judiciary and the government amid months of economic and political turmoil.

Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial had summoned officials from the finance ministry, the central bank and the Election Commision of Pakistan (ECP) to his chamber on Friday to seek a reply on the funds, warning that non-compliance would have consequences.

The parliament had on Thursday ruled it wasn’t possible to spare 21 billion rupees ($74.79 million) in funds for the snap polls, which the court had ordered.

The court order seen by Reuters said the chief justice directed the central bank’s acting governor and the finance ministry to coordinate and “forthwith allocate and release” the money from federal consolidated funds no later than April 17.

“All this must be done at the earliest and at the absolute latest not later than the close of business on Monday,” the order said, adding this should also be confirmed to the ECP.

It ordered the central bank and the finance ministry to file back a compliance report by Tuesday. It added: “We may also note that this order shall be deemed sufficient authority for all purposes for the authorization of the expenditures.”

The top judiciary and the government have been locked in a standoff at a time when Pakistan faces soaring inflation and an acute balance of payments crisis as talks with the IMF to secure $1.1 billion in funding, part of a $6.5 billion bailout package agreed to in 2019, have so far yielded no results.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s government says it is not economically viable to hold snap elections, in two provinces where former leader Imran Khan had dissolved the local governments this year, ahead of a general election due in October.

Voting is constitutionally mandated within 90 days of the dissolution of a legislative assembly.

The court had ordered snap polls in the most populated Punjab province to be held on May 14, and said a date could be agreed later for the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, pending some technical issues.

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