ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Tuesday questioned the discretionary power of former prime minister regarding distribution of billions of People’s Works Development Programme-II funds among parliamentarians and others.

A three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, was hearing suo moto case about billion of rupees doled out by former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf in the form of development funds.

During the proceedings, the court inquired from Secretary Ministry of Finance Dr Waqar Masood that whether a prime minister has discretionary power to release the development funds to a particular constituency or not?

The court directed the finance ministry to present the legal provisions under which different funds were diverted to PWP-II from the WAPDA, Higher Education Commission (HEC) and Lowari Tunnel. It also asked the ministry to tell what was the criteria regarding the distribution of PWP-II fund. The bench directed the ministry of finance to engage a counsel for giving the legal status about the PM’s discretionary power regarding the distribution of fund among parliamentarians and notables.

The Secretary Finance Ministry, appearing before the bench, stated that no PWP-II funds were released after March 16, 2013. He said that Prime Minister has the authority to sanction funds for small development schemes, however, occasionally these funds could be issued to members of provincial assemblies.

The chief justice observed that the Prime Minister is of the whole country and not of a particular area; therefore, he should not spend billions of rupees in one constituency. The court said that the unequal distribution of development funds among parliamentarians of his choice was considered bad governance.

Waqar Masood stated that no guidelines had been laid for the Public Works Programme (PWP) and it was a complete discretion of the Prime Minister. He maintained that proper transparency was kept in view during the whole process of the utilization of these funds. The secretary ministry of finance, however, requested the bench to get assistance regarding the discretionary power of the PM from the attorney general for Pakistan.

Meanwhile, the court was informed that Sui Northern and Southern Gas Pipeline companies had got Rs5.8 billions from PWP-II fund in 2012/13 for implementing the PM’s directives 100 per cent regarding supply of gas in different areas.

A representative of the companies told the bench that they had written the government several times that the country was already facing the shortage of gas therefore supply of gas should be stopped.

Upon this, the CJ said that why they implemented the illegal directives of the prime minister as they were bound to follow only the legal orders.

He said that there should not be discrimination regarding the supply of gas.

The hearing of the case is adjourned for ten days.