PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Tuesday issued a notice to the advocate general of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa seeking his response to a petition of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz against the recent authorisation of expenditure by the provincial government for a month.

Justice Ijaz Anwar and Justice Shahid Khan held a preliminary hearing into the joint petition of two PML-N MPAs, including Leader of the Opposition in the provincial assembly Dr Ibadullah Khan and Sobia Shahid, for declaring the government’s expenditure authorisation move unconstitutional and illegal.

The bench fixed May 2 for next hearing into the petition.

The petitioners insisted that the April 5 decision of the provincial cabinet regarding the authorisation of the government’s essential expenditure for the current month of April was against the Constitution and the law.

Fixes next hearing into plea against govt’s move for May 2

They also prayed the court to direct the provincial government to immediately call the provincial assembly’s session for the approval of the essential expenditure for an “appropriate period until the presentation of the regular budget” in the house.

Lawyer for the petitioners Aminur Rehman Yousafzai said that the provincial assembly was dissolved on Jan 19, 2023, by the KP governor on the advice of the then chief minister and a caretaker government was later installed in the province.

He said that piecemeal authorisation of expenditure for four months was approved under Article 126 of the Constitution by the caretaker cabinet for July-Oct 2023 and Nov 2023-Feb 2024, respectively, in July and Nov 2023.

The counsel said that the general elections were held on Feb 8, 2024, and the first meeting of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial assembly was held on Feb 28 for the oath taking of the newly-elected members.

He added that the previous period of the authorisation of expenditure expired on Feb 29 and therefore, the provincial assembly approved the authorisation of expenditure for a further period of one month (March 2024) under Article 125 of the Constitution on March 4.

Mr Yousafzai said that the period of authorisation also expired on March 31.

He contended that after the lapse of a one-month period of authorised expenditure, the provincial government, in order to approve authorisation of expenditure for a further period, opted for the analogy of Article 126, through which a caretaker provincial government was authorised to sanction its expenditure.

The lawyer argued that without following the prescribed constitutional procedure, the cabinet authorised the essential expenditure for the month of April in its meeting held on April 5.

He contended that the provincial cabinet had deliberately misinterpreted Article 126 of the Constitution for ulterior motives in order to frustrate judgement of the high court on March 27, wherein it directed the speaker of the assembly to administer oaths to the opposition members elected to seats reserved for women and non-Muslims in the assembly.

Mr Yousafzai argued that the provincial assembly had been there since Feb 28, 2024, whereas Article 126 of the Constitution, which was exclusively related to a caretaker government when the assembly had been dissolved, had been invoked by the government, which was illegal and unconstitutional.

Meanwhile, Dr Ibadullah told reporters on the premises of the high court that the provincial government had been undermining the importance of the provincial assembly by authorising its expenditure in an illegal manner.

In a reference to detained PTI founder and former prime minister Imran Khan, the opposition leader insisted that the affairs of the provincial government were run at the whims of a convicted person.

He complained about a delay in the appointment of regular vice-chancellors to the province’s 18 public sector universities and insisted the chief minister had no interest in the affairs of the province.

Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2024

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