Just as the PML-N starts to shed its religious tilt and receive praise from across the board, it reverts to its financially corrupt and power hungry mode of the past; undoing any goodwill it might have generated. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has directed Finance Minister Ishaq Dar to arrange around Rs300 billion for development schemes at the constituencies of the ruling party’s MNAs in a bid to secure their re-election in the next general election – calculated at a cool 1 Billion per MNA per year.

Giving out federal funds to MNAs for ‘development projects’ is plain illegal. There are statute provisions and Supreme Court decisions making this crystal clear. Yet not only does the Prime Minister intend to knowingly and blatantly sidestep the law, the way he is doing it is abhorrent. The money will be distributed under Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Community Development Programme – which not only undermine these projects but also show how easily the government is ready to scrap them for personal gain.

What makes the Prime Minister think that being a member of the ruling party makes a person eligible to receive money? Do the other regions in the land not require development? It will be a travesty to see neighbouring districts with similar demographics and similar problems receive different treatment depending on the flag that flies from their representative’s office. This is a clear breach of the federal government’s role; which is supposed to treat all its citizens equally.

This goes further than the realm of breach of duty and strays into discrimination and unfair practices. How will the next general election be a ‘free and fair’ one if the ruling party gets a substantial monetary advantage to woo and even bribe its voters? A similar agricultural grant programme was announced by the government on the eve of the local government polls, which was eventually shot down by the judiciary.

The PML-N modus operandi is clear; when the election is near start giving out money to party members and potential voters. This is bribery plain and simple, no matter how you dress it up.

Even if this fund distribution plan was in any way legal or fair, it is the most ill conceived plan ever. How did the honorable Prime Minister come up with the figure of rupees 1 billion for each constituency – that too in the space of a meeting? No consideration is given to actual need or population; a lump sum is to be given to a MNA’s sole discretion. What he decides to do with it his choice, and if past precedent is anything to go by the majority of the fund will end up in the MNA’s already well-appointed pockets.

If the federal government feels that the people will not respond to mega projects alone, then it should have undertaken nationwide federal development projects, not just focused on building roads in Lahore. This underhand, unfair and illegal distribution funds is a shameful way to make up for lost time.