ECP serves notice on Hamza for violating code of conduct

Mumtaz Alvi
Wednesday, Jul 06, 2022

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday issued a notice to Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz for announcing free electricity for households consuming up to 100 units from July.

This package has been announced just a few days ahead of by-elections on 20 provincial assembly seats in Punjab. In a notice over violation of the code of conduct for the electoral exercise, the ECP has asked Hamza Shehbaz to appear before it in person or through his counsel on July 7. The notice reads: “Take notice and be informed that the Election Commission of Pakistan has announced schedule for by-elections in 20 constituencies of the Provincial Assembly of Punjab and poll is scheduled to be held on July 17.”

It says the commission had issued a code of conduct on May 25 to provide a level-playing field to all the contesting candidates and political parties. Directives were issued also that no government functionary or elected representative, including a local government functionary or elected representative, shall announce any development scheme for the constituencies, where by-elections are under process till July 17.

“The ECP was obliged under Article 218(3) of the Constitution to conduct elections and 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. It has, however, come to the notice of the Election Commission of Pakistan through media that you have announced a relief package for the consumers of electricity of Punjab under the Roshan Gharana Programme, which is in violation of the directives. You are, hereby, required to appear in person or through counsel, before the Election Commission of Pakistan on July 7, 2022 at 10am and submit your response in this regard,” the notice reads.

The relief programme supposed to benefit an estimated nine million poor families, about half of the population of the province, had been announced by the Punjab chief minister while speaking at a press conference on Monday. The announcement came in the wake of a ban imposed by the Election Commission of Pakistan on initiating any development project until the July 17 by-polls on 20 Punjab Assembly seats. The chief minister had termed it the largest relief package in the history of Pakistan for providing relief to the downtrodden, saying that free electricity would be provided to all the consumers of the province using up to 100 units a month. About half of the population of the province will be provided free electricity from this month and the Punjab government will pay their bills in August.

Meanwhile, in a related development, the Election Commission of Pakistan barred Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif from visiting Thatta for the groundbreaking ceremony of the Greater Karachi Bulk Water Supply Scheme, ahead of the second phase of local government elections in Sindh.

According to the ECP’s media wing, the regional election commissioner, Thatta Division, who is also the district returning officer, in a notice urged following the code of conduct, warning that a failure would entail action under sections 233 and 234 of the Elections Act 2017. “The matter needs to be treated as the most urgent as it relates to the transparent and smooth conduct of elections, requiring absolute adherence to the law,” he said.

The schedule for the second phase of local government elections in Sindh had been announced by the ECP on June 10. The elections in 14 districts (Karachi, Hyderabad and Thatta Division) of Sindh are to take place on July 24.

Meanwhile, PMLN Vice President Maryam Nawaz criticised the PTI for approaching the Supreme Court of Pakistan after Hamza announced giving free electricity to people consuming up to 100 units per month.

In a statement on Twitter, she said free electricity had been provided to the poor in Punjab. So, instead of moving the Supreme Court against the Punjab CM's decision, the PTI should provide free electricity to the needy in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). She said that to provide free electricity to the needy in KP, one should work hard, instead of being jealous.

Earlier, terming Hamza’s announcement ahead of the by-elections a "violation of court orders and an attempt to gain political mileage", PTI leader Chaudhry Fawad Hussain wrote a letter to the apex court against the “relief package” of the chief minister. He claimed that the chief minister's plan for getting Punjab out of the crisis was for political gains. He said the Punjab chief minister could exercise only regulatory powers till July 22.