Pre-poll rigging? SC takes notice of advert campaigns by provinces

Asks govts in K-P, Sindh and Punjab to provide details of promotional advertisements

Hasnaat Malik February 28, 2018
Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday took a suo motu notice of the advertising campaigns run on national media by three provinces – Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh – to highlight their projects and asked the provincial governments to submit details of these campaigns within a week.

Heading a three-judge bench, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar asked whether spending huge amounts on media campaigns by provincial governments was not pre-poll rigging.

The bench noted that the provincial governments, through such advertisements, were doing self-projection and aggrandisement under the garb of informing the public about the projects completed or undertaken by them.

Our restraint should not be considered weakness: CJP

“Such advertisements and paid content contain photographs of prominent politicians and leaders of political parties in power. Such profligacy which is obviously undertaken at the government’s expense and taxpayers’ money should not be burdening the public exchequer,” it said.

According to the bench, such campaigns not only cause wastage of public funds – which can otherwise be utilised for public welfare – but also results in an unfair advantage to the ruling party in the elections.

“Moreover, being an election year this may be tantamount to pre-poll rigging,” the order said.

The bench also directed the information secretaries of each province to submit details of all expenditure incurred on such advertisements with separate details relating to electronic and print media.

The details must include identity of the print and electronic media houses paid to publish such advertisements; names of newspapers, magazines, TV channels and radio stations which have run such advertisements; and aggregate amounts paid in the last three months.

The secretaries were also directed to provide names of government departments, government companies, semi-government entities and other organisations that were directed to pay such amounts or through which such amounts have been paid.

They were also ordered to provide a summary of the aggregate amount spent so far by each province in such extravagant displays and self-projection by the respective provincial governments.

“A detailed report containing the above information be submitted under the signatures of the respective secretaries information of each province which shall be countersigned by chief secretary of each province,” the order said.

The bench said the chief secretaries shall also submit sworn affidavits, with each report confirming that all information had been checked and rechecked for accuracy and supported by the relevant record and that no information was concealed, misstated or withheld.

“Such report shall be filed within a period of one week from today. The office shall transmit copies of this order through courier service /fax/email to chief secretaries of all provinces for compliance,” the bench said in the order.

The hearing of the case will resume on March 12.


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