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Back to square one: NA body refers election funds issue to cabinet

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  • SBP says funds allocated but don’t have authority to release.
  • “If NA allows funds can be released to ECP,” state minister says.
  • Law minister says this issue will be resolved today.

ISLAMABAD: After a heated debate over the Supreme Court’s order to the central bank directing it to release the funds directly to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Finance and Revenue on Monday decided to refer the issue to the cabinet as the deadline to release Rs21 billion ends today.

The Supreme Court on April 14 directed the central bank to release funds worth Rs21 billion for elections in Punjab and send an “appropriate communication” to this effect to the finance ministry by Monday (April 17).

A special meeting of the NA panel was summoned today as the deadline given to the SBP for releasing funds to the electoral body ends today.

The bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar, conducted an in-chamber hearing last week regarding the non-implementation of its April 4 order to the federal government to release the funds and directed the central bank to release funds.

The directives came after the electoral body submitted a report informing the apex court that the Ministry of Finance has failed to release funds as ordered by the three-member bench on April 4.

At the outset of the meeting today, State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Acting Governor Sima Kamil informed the NA panel the regulator has allocated Rs21 billion for the ECP to conduct polls in Punjab on the directives of the Supreme Court, however, it does not have the authority to release funds directly.

Law Minister Senator Azam Nazeer Tarar informed the panel that the Ministry of Finance had already said that it does not have sufficient funds to hold elections in Punjab on May 14.

“Spending twice on elections is not in the country’s interest”, the law minister said, adding that the apex court had directed the central bank to arrange the funds.

He maintained that the trustees of government funds are elected representatives of the people.

It should be noted that Finance Minister Ishaq Dar was also summoned by the NA body, however, he didn’t attend the meeting today as he was in Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah, according to sources.

PML-N leader Barjees Tahir added that if the central bank releases funds directly to the electoral body it will be against the law.

“How can the Supreme Court direct the SBP to release funds?” Tahir questioned, adding that if elections are held in Punjab separately it will affect the results of the general elections of the other three provinces later.

The central bank’s acting governor, addressing the criticism it received for allocating the funds, explained to the lawmakers that by allocating the funds the amount will remain in the account.

She further added that they appeared before the Supreme Court on its directive and informed the apex court that the central bank can allocate funds; however, it cannot release the funds.

Meanwhile, State Minister for Finance and Revenue Aisha Ghaus Pasha emphasised that the SBP cannot spend money without the permission of the parliament.

“If the National Assembly allows funds can be released [to the ECP],” she said, clarifying that even the Finance Division cannot spend without seeking permission from the cabinet and the lower house.

Meanwhile, the law minister said that this issue will be resolved today as cabinet and National Assembly sessions are also scheduled.

It should be noted that the summary will also be presented in the National Assembly after the approval of the cabinet. 

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The inaugural flight of Azerbaijan Airlines is between Baku and Karachi.

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The national airline of Azerbaijan launched direct flights from Baku to Karachi today. There will be two weekly flights on this route, on Thursdays and Sundays.

The first flight will land in Karachi, and Azerbaijan’s ambassador, Khazar Farhadov, will be there to greet it.

This evening also marks the departure of the inaugural flight from Karachi to Baku, in addition to the arrival of the flight from Baku.

Azerbaijan Airlines said last month that it would be growing its network and flight operations in Pakistan.

Aviation insiders have verified that Azerbaijan Airlines is preparing to launch service to Karachi in the coming month of April.

In addition to its current services in Islamabad and Lahore, the airline plans to launch its Karachi route on April 18, with the inaugural flight anticipated to depart on that date.

Azerbaijan Airlines has been given permission to operate flights on the Karachi route, according to sources within the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Following a bilateral agreement between the two nations, Azerbaijan Airlines has been given permission to extend its operations in Pakistan.

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Fly Jinnah opens a new route internationally.

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Two weekly flights will be the starting frequency of the new route, which will connect the two cities.

According to a representative for Fly Jinnah, the company is pleased to announce the opening of a third international route from Islamabad to Muscat, the capital city of Oman, marking another significant milestone after the successful debut of flights from Islamabad and Lahore to Sharjah.

According to him, this development is in line with our goal of giving our clients more options for reasonably priced, value-driven local and international air travel.

The airline serves five main cities in Pakistan: Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar, and Quetta. Its fleet consists of five Airbus A320 aircraft, all of which are contemporary.

In addition to the current flight path to Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, this new route expands Fly Jinnah’s network of foreign destinations.

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Tajir Dost app: traders don’t seem interested in registering

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To tax retailers in Pakistan, the Tajir Dost app was released. The sources stated that the government hopes to tax 3.5 million merchants through the app.

Ajmal Baloch, the president of All-Pakistan Anjuman-e-Tajran, stated that he made reservations with FBR on the SRO within a week.

The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), according to him, cannot be a “Tajir Dost” because of its unethical actions.

Baloch believed that since electricity bills allow traders to pay a predetermined advance income tax, further taxes are unnecessary.

The trader, according to him, is already paying thirteen different kinds of taxes on the commercial meter. “A trader already pays between Rs. 15,000 and Rs. 20,000 in taxes annually, but you are requesting Rs. 1,200 per month in taxes.”

Mr. Ajmal summoned representatives of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to a meeting with the trade associations to talk about the indirect taxes that the merchants are paying.

Additionally, he claimed that FBR officers are charging the traders, the majority of whom are less educated, “monthly charges.”

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