The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday suspended Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz’s Roshan Gharana Programme aiming to provide free electricity to poor households of Punjab, till July 17.
On Monday, Hamza announced free electricity for an estimated nine million low-income families in the province, consuming up to 100 units from July.
The announcement was made in the wake of a ban imposed by the ECP on initiating any development projects until the by-polls were out of the way.
A three-member bench of the ECP, headed by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikander Sultan Raja, heard the matter today.
Khalid Ishaq, Hamza’s counsel, submitted his response to the commission and informed them that the programme did not cover the constituencies where by-elections would be held.
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He said it was a part of the provincial budget announced last month.
At this, CEC Raja asked why Hamza held a separate press conference if the programme was already included in the budget.
According to Dawn, Hamza’s counsel argued that “The programme has been announced for those consuming 50 to 100 units of electricity because of the rise in inflation.”
Meanwhile, ECP Director General of Law Mohammad Arshad also said, “The announcement of the Punjab government’s programme is an attempt to influence the by-elections.”
Hamza Shahbaz’s free BIJLI program for Punjab cancelled.
Stunt after stunt being exposed.
— Mir Mohammad Alikhan (@MirMAKOfficial) July 7, 2022
He called for the programme to be stopped since less than ten days remained till the by-polls.
However, Hamza’s counsel Ishaq argued that the consumers would benefit from the programme in August.
CEC Raja said it was the Election Commission’s duty to provide a level playing field for all parties. Subsequently, the ECP suspended the programme till July 17.
The CEC said that action would be taken to violate the electoral code of conduct by the law. He directed that no development programmes should be announced till the by-elections.
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“The Election Commission rejects all propaganda to make by-elections controversial. The Election Commission has more support from law enforcement agencies.”
He pledged that the by-elections in 20 constituencies in Punjab would be held transparently.
With input from Dawn