ISLAMABAD: Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has suspended Roshan Gharana Programme launched by Chief Minister Punjab Hamza Shahbaz— declaring that this scheme has “direct influence over the election process and is against the mandate of the Constitution regarding free, free, just and honest elections on a level-playing field” — ahead of by-elections on 20 seats of Punjab Assembly on July 17.
The programme that envisages the provision of free electricity of up to 100 units to the consumers—has been suspended till July 19—till two days after the scheduled conduct of by-polls (on July 17).
Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja headed the three-member bench, comprising of Nisar Ahmed Durrani and former Justice Ikramullah Khan that heard the case and issued a five-page order on Thursday.
A counsel for the CM Punjab represented him before the bench.
In the proceedings, the defence lawyer stated that Roshan Gharana Programme was part of the federal budget and 100 billion rupees were allocated for this purpose that was launched for the entire Punjab.
However, the CEC was of the view that the programme could be executed after the by-polls and its execution ahead of the elections was clearly tantamount to influencing the electoral process in favour of the ruling party in Punjab.
The Roshan Gharana Programme was launched by the younger Sharif on Monday. But on Tuesday, the electoral body took notice and summoned the CM at the ECP headquarters here in the federal capital—directing him to appear either in person or through a counsel on Thursday. The ECP code of conduct bars the public office-holders from announcing development packages/visiting any constituency after the announcement of election schedule in the said constituency.
The ECP can impose a maximum fine of Rs 50,000 on anyone found guilty of violating the electoral code of conduct— in exercise of powers under Section 234 of Elections Act 2017.
Under the same section, electoral body has powers to disqualify any candidate from contesting the polls if he/she is found violating electoral code of conduct more than once.
By-elections are being held on four PA seats of Lahore, two seats each of Jhang, Lodhran, Muzaffargarh, and one seat each of Rawalpindi, Khushab, Bhakkar, Faisalabad, Sheikhupura, Sahiwal, Multan, Bahawalnagar, Layyah and Dera Ghazi Khan.
On May 30, this year, ECP, under Article 63-A, de-notified the legislative memberships of a total of 25 dissident members provincial assembly (MPAs) of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) who voted for Hamza Shahbaz, against the party policy, in the election of CM Punjab held in April. Of them, 20 legislators were elected on general seats and five on reserved seats.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022