An official informed the Supreme Court on Monday that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI)-led government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa spent Rs1.63 billion on media campaigns in its five-year tenure ending this year.
A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar was hearing a suo motu notice against hefty ad expenditure by provincial governments.
The chief justice inquired during the hearing how many ads were commissioned to print and electronic media outlets by the KP government and how many of them carried the photo of PTI Chairman Imran Khan and Chief Minister Pervez Khattak.
KP Information Secretary Qaisar Alam informed the bench that the provincial government spent Rs1.63bn on advertisements during the last five years, while Rs204.7 million were doled out for the purpose during the last three months.
The chief justice directed the secretary to submit details of KP government's ad expenditure of the last year, and bring with him copies of ads which carried photos of Khan and Khattak.
At the outset of the hearing, the CJP asked whether Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had reimbursed the national exchequer Rs5.5 million that the court ordered him to pay last week. The amount was spent on a media campaign run on television channels to highlight the performance of the provincial government.
The additional advocate general Punjab produced a copy of the Rs5.5m cheque that was paid by Sharif in this regard. The amount was reimbursed from "party funds", the advocate told the court.
Justice Nisar once again stressed that the funds spent on political ad campaigns belonged to the treasury.
"We have nothing against the advertisements, but they should not be for personal publicity," he remarked, adding that the photos of late PPP leader Benazir Bhutto, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari should also not appear in government ads.
The money spent on government ads belonged to the people of Pakistan, the CJP said, adding that the court wished to end wastage of public funds.
"We will see from whom money [spent] for personal promotion should be recovered," he said, directing the counsels for All Pakistan Newspapers Society and Pakistan Broadcasters Association to submit their recommendations.
The CJP emphasised that the court was not ending the flow of advertisements to newspapers, but only halting "a category of advertisements".
The hearing was adjourned until Tuesday.