ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court was approached on Monday to seek an order restraining Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Parvez Elahi from allocating public development funds for the constituencies belonging to his family members.

Advocate Mian Dawood, the petitioner, also requested the apex court to prevent different government agencies from releasing payments to contractors or placing the public revenue at the indirect disposal of Punjab Assembly members from the constituencies belonging to the family members of the chief minister.

The petitioner said it was an admitted fact that the Punjab chief minister granted his home district the status of division and then allocated over Rs100 billion for development schemes, apparently for two districts — Gujrat and Mandi Bahauddin. He alleged that the chief minister had released funds to the constituencies of Chaudhry Hussain (NA-68, Gujrat-I), Moonis Elahi (NA-69, Gujrat-II), Sajid Ahmed Bhatti (PP-67, Mandi Bahauddin-III) and his own constituency of PP-430, Gujrat-III.

The petition requested the court to declare as unconstitutional the allocation of disproportionate funds to the constituencies of the chief minister and his family members, besides ruling that the allocation or re-appropriation through supplementary or excess grants of funds in the constituencies and the projects have been initiated in violation of the principle of transparency, good governance and procurement laws.

Petitioner seeks NAB probe into violation of constitutional provisions, procurement laws

The petitioner also requested the apex court to direct the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) or any other agency to launch an investigation against those responsible for violation of constitutional provisions and principles of transparency and procurement laws and causing loss or damage to the public exchequer.

“It turns out that 70 per cent of the funds are for the constituencies belonging to the family of the incumbent chief minister,” the petition said, adding that the allocation of funds by masquerading the same as supplement grants is in addition to the non-developmental expenditures to be incurred on building paraphernalia for all divisional offices in Gujrat.

The petition said that it had been reported that Punjab’s total development budget for the fiscal year 2022-23 stood at around Rs700bn of which a significant portion went to Gujrat division comprising four small districts of Gujrat, Mandi Bahauddin, Wazirabad and Hafizabad and the lion’s share was kept within the two families. The major beneficiaries from Gujrat are the constituencies of Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, his son Moonis and Hussain, the son of Chaudhry Wajahat Hussain.

The petitioner cited the Punjab chief secretary, secretaries of finance and planning and development departments, the Planning and Development Board chairman, Accountant General Office and NAB as respondents.

The petition recalled that the apex court had in 2014 held that the prime minister had no discretionary power vis-à-vis supplementary or excess grant and the same was analogically applicable to the chief ministers as well. It was also held in a 2014 judgement that incurring of expenditure by the federal government without following and recourse to procedure provided in Articles 82 and 83 would amount to nullifying these provisions, it added.

Being the guardian of the fundamental law, the petition argued, the Supreme Court was obligated to ensure that the public functionaries adhere to the constitutional dictates and principles of public trust, transparency and good governance while dealing with the public exchequer and funds.

If the interim relief as prayed for is not granted, the petition feared, the public exchequer and state revenue would suffer an irreparable and irrevocable loss. The abnormal allocation or increase of funds in constituencies at the cost of other districts tramples over the just distribution of resources in accordance with the principles of financial propriety, resulting in the regional disparity, which in turn, weakens the very fabric of the state and undermines the social economic cohesion of society and the state, the petition argued.

Published in Dawn, December 20th, 2022

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