LAHORE - Punjab Information Secretary Raja Jahangir Thursday told the Supreme Court that Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif was ready to pay from his own pocket the cost of a media campaign, showing ‘performance’ of the provincial government.

The information secretary appeared before a three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, hearing different suo motu notices at the Supreme Court Lahore Registry against media advertisements of the Punjab government.

Jahangir said the Punjab chief minister volunteered to pay Rs 5.5 million from his own pocket earlier paid to 12 television channels for a one-day broadcasting of advertisement.

He said the chief minister showed respect to the judges’ observations made by the bench on the last hearing against the government’s media campaign based upon the public money about its performance.

The CJP accepted the assurance of the secretary and directed him to come up with a report, including receipt of the payment, on the next hearing.

Previously, the chief justice took notice of the Punjab government’s media campaign ahead of the general elections. “The Punjab chief minister should have paid for the advertisement from his own pocket as the court would not allow misuse of public money,” the CJP remarked.

Taking exception to the extravagant sums of money spent on advertisements by the Punjab government annually, the CJP observed no water was there in state-run schools and no medicines available in public hospitals whereas the provincial government was spending taxpayers’ money on massive advertisements. He also observed the provincial governments would have to promote their work at their own expense. “Is it not equal to pre-poll rigging?” the CJP asked the officials present there to represent the Punjab government.

During the proceedings, the court was also shown nearly four-minute long ad. After watching the ad, Chief Justice Nisar observed: “Could the chief minister not share such information at public meetings?”

Answering a court query, the Punjab information secretary said Rs 120 million were spent on advertisements by the provincial government in one month. The top judge remarked: “It means Rs 1.5 billion were spent on advertisements in one year.” The chief justice asked the information secretary what the procedure for issuing advertisements was.

The bench also sought record of advertisements from all the provincial governments showing pictures of the respective chief ministers.

The bench would resume further hearing in Islamabad on a date to be fixed by the office.