Setting precedents without thinking

The collision course between executive and judiciary needs to be stopped

The Supreme Court’s order to the State Bank of Pakistan to put Rs 21 billion into the account of the Election Commission, made by a bench during a hearing in chambers on Friday, is worrying, and would drive away foreign investment, not that much is coming in. It must be remembered that their SBP, apart from regulating the banking system, is banker to the government. Thus the order is for a bank to take money from one account and put it into another, and without the instructions of the client. There are two sources of money the SBP could use: either it could make a deduction from the government’s existing accounts, or it could use its ability (not shared by other banks) of printing the money and putting it in the ECP’s account. The second would make nonsense of the autonomy that the IMF made sure was granted to the SBP by the government. The sum involved, Rs 21 billion, would have a macroeconomic effect, and would probably affect the SBP’s calculations about the money supply and the interest rate. The Supreme Court has already come under criticism for the negative effects of its interventions in the Karachi Electric privatization and the Reko Diq agreement, and now it seems to have widened its scope to banker-client relations.

If it is a matter of enforcing fundamental rights, as the Supreme Court claims it is doing in the present case, will the Court proceed to order a bank to move funds from one account to another without consulting the original account holder. It is almost as if the Supreme Court feels it cannot enforce its writ on the account holder, in this case the government, and is trying to sidestep it in a way which resembles theft in a way too close for comfort. A private citizen would take the matter to the Banking Ombudsman.

It would seem that the collision course on which the judiciary and the executive are headed is growing ever more dangerous, and is casting its shadow over all citizens. What started as a matter for the voters of KP and Punjab, has now involved any person, any entity, with a bank account anywhere in Pakistan. Someone has to bridge the gap, and tell the government and the judiciary that the joke has gone too far. Expropriation, unfortunately, is something Pakistan knows about; the end result has been privatization, and the state owning a lot of white elephants. Does the Supreme Court really want to take the country down that road?

The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected].


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