Supreme Court Justice Qazi Faez Isa on Wednesday questioned Prime Minister Imran Khan’s stance on granting development funds to lawmakers, observing that a letter submitted by his principal secretary to the top court “did not contain the answers to the court’s questions”.
He made these remarks during the hearing of a case related to the prime minister’s approval of Rs500 million uplift grant to lawmakers which is being heard by a five-member bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed and compromising Justice Mushir Alam, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan and Justice Isa.
“The letter does not have answers to the court’s questions. It seems the prime minister has not read the court’s order properly,” Justice Isa observed.
On Feb 3, Justice Isa, while taking notice of the plan to distribute development funds, had asked the court office to place the file before the chief justice to constitute a bench to hear the matter.
In the order, Justice Isa had cited Article 5(2) of the Constitution that mandated obedience to the Constitution and the law as inviolable obligation of every citizen and then stated that Article204(2) empowered the Supreme Court to take action against any person who disobeyed any order of the court. Moreover, the oath of office of judges also required them to preserve, protect and defend the constitution, he had said.
While presiding over the PTI parliamentary party meeting on Jan 27, the prime minister had accepted the long-standing demand of his party’s lawmakers for development funds for their constituencies and announced a grant of Rs500m for each member of the National Assembly and the provincial assemblies under sustainable development goals so that they could carry out development schemes for their voters.
Justice Isa had asked Attorney General of Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan to update the court on the issue based on the government’s response. He directed the court office to issue notices to the federal government through the cabinet secretary, principal secretary to the PM and finance secretary and to the provincial governments through their chief secretaries and finance secretaries.
The court also ordered to issue notices to the AG and the advocates-general of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan as well as Islamabad Capital Territory and directed them to furnish responses to the query.
During today’s hearing, all provinces submitted written replies to the court except for Sindh. When the chief justice questioned why it had not done so, the Sindh government’s counsel told the court it was because the provincial government had not given development funds to any lawmakers.
“Sindh government should have submitted a written answer,” CJP Ahmed remarked.
Meanwhile, the court that the grant of development funds to lawmakers was “linked to the Constitution”, adding that the prime minister knew that “government funds cannot be used wrongly”.
“No member of the National Assembly will be given money,” he added.
Justice Isa questioned who had drafted the reply submitted by the PM’s principal secretary to which AGP Khan replied that it was “a matter between the lawyer and his client”.
“The letter does not have proper English, it does not answer the court’s questions. It seems like the prime minister has tried to keep the door open for [granting] funds,” Justice Isa observed.
He also remarked that there was a “storm of information” from the Ministry of Information every day.
“Either the prime minister should remain firm on what he said or admit he had made a mistake. Why is the prime minister hiding behind his secretary? The entire media published the news and the prime minister is silent,” the SC judge said.
AGP Khan replied that if the prime minister “started refuting every news himself, he would not be able to do any other work”.
The court ordered the Sindh government to submit its reply today. It also ordered the finance secretary to submit a clear answer to the court, directing that the report should also have the premier’s signature on it.