The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has temporarily stopped the Punjab government’s ‘Roshan Gharana’ Programme, which seeks to provide free electricity to low-income households, until after the by-polls take place on July 17, on the grounds of electoral code violations.
Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz had on Monday announced the programme, and said that under the Punjab Chief Minister Roshan Gharana Programme, free electricity would be provided to households consuming up to 100 units from July onwards.
Prior to his announcement, the ECP had imposed a ban on initiating any development initiatives until after the by-elections have taken place.
The ECP had on Tuesday issued a notice to Hamza seeking his reply for the alleged electoral code violation.
Today (Thursday) a three-member bench headed by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikander Sultan Raja, heard the issue today.
Hamza’s counsel Khalid Ishaq argued that the programme did not cover the constituencies where by-elections would be held, and it had been a part of the provincial budget which had been announced last month.
To this, ECP Sindh member, Nisar Durrani said that the chief minister’s announcement of the program during an election campaign would be considered an attempt to influence polling. At this Ishaq said that if the goal had been to influence polling then the government wouldn’t have raised petrol prices.
Durrani pointed out that the decision to raise petrol prices was the federal government’s prerogative, and the provincial government did not have the authority to raise petrol prices.
CEC Raja commented that since the announcement had already been made at the time of provincial budget, there was no need to have made it again while campaigning.
Noting that it was the ECP’s job to ensure that there was a level playing field for all contestants of the election, ECP Director General of Law, Mohammad Arshad stated, “The announcement of the Punjab government’s programme is an attempt to influence the by-elections.”
Subsequently, the ECP suspended the programme till July 17.