ECP issues notice to Punjab CM Hamza for ‘violation of poll code’ through free electricity scheme

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday issued a notice to Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz, seeking his reply for his alleged violation of the electoral code of conduct by announcing free electricity for a specific group of consumers in the province ahead of the July 17 by-elections.

The electoral watchdog sought a reply from the provincial chief executive on July 7.

Hamza had on Monday announced free electricity for households consuming up to 100 units, from July under “Punjab Chief Minister Roshan Gharana Programme”. The relief programme is supposed to benefit, as claimed by the government, an estimated nine million poor families — about half of the population of the province.

The announcement was made in the wake of a ban imposed by the ECP on initiating any development projects until the by-polls on 20 Punjab Assembly seats were out of the way.

Section 181 of the Elections Act states, “No government functionary or elected representative including a local government functionary or elected representative, shall announce any development scheme for a constituency after the announcement of the Election Programme of that constituency.”

According to the ECP notice, the chief minister must submit the reply to the electoral watchdog himself or through a lawyer.

The ECP reminded the chief minister that no development scheme or project could be announced by the government or any of its officials after the issuance of the election schedule.

The commission had on May 25 announced that by-elections on 20 seats of the Punjab Assembly that fell vacant after the de-notification of 25 Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf MPAs will be held on July 17.

Meanwhile, a district returning officer (DRO) of ECP’s Thatta Division sent a letter to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, urging him to “adhere to the law” as he planned to visit Thatta to perform a ground-breaking ceremony of K-IV water project ahead of by-elections due to be held in Karachi, Hyderabad and Thatta.

In the letter sent to the PM today, the officer said “no executive authority in the federation and the provinces is allowed to announce a development project or use state resources in LG elections calculated to influence the elections in favour of a particular candidate.”

Addressing the PM, the DRO added: “the matter must be treated as most urgent as it relates to smooth and transparent conduct of local government elections.”

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