The Election Commission of Pakistan on Tuesday served a notice on Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz for violating the code of conduct issued for the upcoming by-elections in the province.
The action comes a day after the PML-N leader announced free electricity for households consuming up to 100 units, from July, promising the move would provide relief to an estimated nine million poor families in the province.
Hamza’s relief programme had been announced despite the ban imposed by the Election Commission of Pakistan on initiating any development project until the July 17 by-polls on 20 Punjab Assembly seats.
Taking notice of the violation on Tuesday, the electoral watchdog served a notice on the PML-N leader and summoned him on July 7 over the violation of polling laws. It directed the chief minister to appear before the commission in person or send a lawyer on July 7 at 10am to explain his position on the matter.
“The Election Commission of Pakistan is obliged under Article 218 (3) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to organise and conduct elections and to make such arrangements as are necessary to ensure that the election is conducted honestly, justly, fairly and in accordance with the law and that the corrupt practices are guarded against,” the notice read.
It mentioned that it had come to its notice through media that the chief minister announced a subsidy relief package for the consumers of electricity of Punjab under the “Roshan Gharana Programme" while addressing a news conference on July 4, adding that it was a violation of the poll conduct.
Last month, the ECP issued a notification of the code of conduct for the upcoming by-polls, banning all executive authorities in the Federation and provinces from either announcing any development project or using state resources in the by-elections.
Addressing a news conference in Lahore on Monday, the chief minister pledged that the Punjab government would bear the utility expenses of consumers who use up to 100 units of electricity.
The government set aside Rs100 billion for the relief programme which will benefit nine million households. "This will act as an incentive for those who use more than 100 units of electricity to save energy," said Hamza.
Fawad knocks SC door
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Fawad Chaudhry wrote a letter to Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial regarding the announcement of the Punjab chief minister's relief package, accusing Hamza Shehbaz of violating the Supreme Court decision and terming the package “pre-poll rigging”.
The letter questioned the relief package and the provision of 100 units of free electricity to the people of the province, stating that Punjab Chief Minister Hamza had exceeded the limited powers granted to him by the court.
READ Hamza pledges relief for masses
It said that on the first of this month, the Supreme Court had devised a formula to save Punjab from constitutional complications and crisis while ensuring clean, transparent, free and peaceful by-elections and to give Hamza temporary chief minister’s status with limited powers.
The letter said that caretaker CM Hamza would exercise only the powers of regulation till July 22 and in this regard, he himself had assured the court that he did not intend to interfere in the election process and rigging, but in this regard, the PTI has “serious concerns over the individual and governmental role of the chief minister”.
Hamza, in defiance of the clear orders of the Supreme Court and the electoral code of conduct, announced the package for the people of the province a few days before the by-elections and used the relief from the court to his political advantage.
The letter said that the CM was influencing the voters in the by-elections through fake relief package. Mentioning PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz in the letter, it has been said that Maryam, who was convicted by the courts, is running a full-fledged campaign for by-elections across the province.
Maryam announced the package in an election rally before the announcement by the chief minister, after which the extraordinary publicity and praise of the announced package of the chief minister on print, electronic and social media was intensified.
It said that on the direct orders of CM Hamza, police crackdown against PTI workers was ongoing and they were being implicated in fake criminal cases. “When they get bail in one case, another is filed against them.”
“There is no room for such packages in the deteriorating economic situation of Pakistan,” Fawad said in the letter, adding that the chief minister's ambition was to pave the way for the election of the leader of the house on July 22 instead of providing facilities to the people, which is directly dependent on the July 17 by-elections. “This move by CM Hamza goes beyond the powers vested in him by the Supreme Court for a specified period.
“This is a reprehensible attempt at pre-election rigging, affecting the transparency of the by-elections in 20 constituencies.”
The ECP also did not take any notice, so it is requested that the matter be placed before the chief justice of Pakistan for his perusal that the chief minister, who has been appointed under limited powers for a temporary period, is exceeding his limits and trying to influence the by-elections through government resources.
PM Shehbaz barred from inaugurating project
Meanwhile, in a separate development, the ECP also barred Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif from his visit to Thatta scheduled to launch the Greater Karachi Bulk Water Supply Scheme K-IV, warning that it would be a violation of its code of conduct.
The prime minister’s visit comes as Sindh is all set to enter the second phase of the LG elections in seven districts — East, West, South, Central, Korangi, Keamari and Malir — of Karachi division and nine districts of Hyderabad Division, which include Hyderabad, Dadu, Jamshoro, Matiari, Tando Muhammad Khan, Tando Allahyar, Badin, Sujawal and Thatta.
Last month, Premier Shehbaz had to call off the inauguration of the Karot Hydropower Project after the ECP barred him from violating the code of conduct in Rawalpindi’s PP-7.