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SC orders Shehbaz to return Rs5.5m spent on government ads

Court was hearing the suo motu notice over hefty expenditure by provincial governments on media advertisements

Gulf News

Islamabad — Pakistan’s apex court on Thursday has ordered the Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif to reimburse Rs5.5 million to the national exchequer that he spent on advertisements in the newspapers.

The Supreme Court (SC) three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar was hearing the suo motu notice over hefty expenditure by provincial governments on media advertisements.

The newspaper advertisement carrying photographs of the Punjab Chief Minister (CM) was displayed in court during hearing of the case in the Lahore registry.

The CJP was critical of the money spent on the ad and asked: “How much did this advertisement cost?” after being shown a newspaper clipping of an ad depicting Shahbaz Sharif. Justice Nisar was informed that it cost Rs5.5 million.

During the hearing, Secretary Information Punjab told the court that over Rs120 million was spent on newspaper advertisements in a month’s time to which the CJP responded saying, “If in a month’s time this amount of money was spent then in a year’s time the amount would sum up to Rs10.5 billion.”

Justice Nisar also inquired about the procedure for issuing the advertisement.

The secretary added that the purpose of the advertisement in question was to show the development work completed by the government in the past five years. The CJP, however, remarked that the provincial governments would have to promote their work at their own expense.

The CJP had observed in a previous hearing of the case that taxpayers’ money was being used for self-promotion and big ads were awarded at the nation’s expense. There is no water in state-run schools, no medicine available in public hospitals, and yet provincial governments spend taxpayers’ money on massive advertisements, the CJP was quoted as saying by Dawn.

He further directed the provincial chief minister to submit Rs5.5 million to the national exchequer and sent notices to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the Punjab CM and the All Pakistan Newspapers Society.

On February 28, the Supreme Court took notice of the advertising campaigns run on national media by three provinces — Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh — to highlight their development projects and asked the provincial governments to submit details of the promotional campaigns within a week.