Those who thought that the matter of discretionary funds allocated to Members of the National Assembly for undertaking development schemes in their communities had been buried by the Supreme Court (SC) in 2013 — had better think again. The SC put a ban on the discretionary funds and in doing so ended the disbursal of monies that were widely seen as being used as a personal favour-bank for MNAs. Rather than complying with the ruling of the SC, the government is now looking for ways to dodge around its ruling and has convened a meeting at the chief-secretary level on January 21 in order to devise a mechanism by which each MNA will receive Rs20 million from the prime minister’s discretionary fund for them to use as they please for development schemes in their constituency. The government is so confident of dodging the SC that the prime minister approved the idea and formed a steering committee to expedite this on “a priority basis”.
This constitutes a blatant disregard for the rule of law. Large sums of money effectively gifted to politicians to do with as they please is quite literally asking for trouble. There would be some who would use it honestly, but there will be others who will not, and Rs20 million is a substantial “loyalty card” to play with both at the PM end of the transaction and at the grassroots constituency level. The job of development and development fund disbursal is more properly handled by local governments, but with the exception of Balochistan, which has held local bodies elections, there is little or no sign of local elections elsewhere. One of the reasons for this may be that the government is unwilling to see the devolution of power — and not only in respect of discretionary funds for development — to the grass roots over which it may have little control or influence. The MNAs are to be asked to submit proposals for schemes to the value of Rs20 million in their constituencies. Their cronies are forming an orderly queue at this very moment, and the government is displaying a shameless disregard for the law.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 20th, 2015.