The Election Commission (ECP) on Thursday suspended the Punjab government’s scheme of providing free electricity to consumers who use less than 100 units under the Roshan Gharana programme until July 17.

The ECP which took up the matter on a complaint that Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz’s measure was a violation in the code of conduct for by-elections.

The counsel for Hamza told the electoral watchdog that the programme was not related to the provincial by-elections, rather, it was announced in the provincial budget.

The Sindh Election Commission member maintained that making announcements such as this would be considered an attempt to impact the elections, to which Hamza’s lawyer replied that the Punjab chief minister would have never increased petrol prices if he truly wanted to impact the elections.

“Raising the price of petrol is not the prerogative of the provincial government,” the commission counterargued.

The chief election commissioner (CEC) inquired why the programme was announced again if it had already been introduced in the budget.

Hamza’s counsel claimed that because of the hike in inflation, the programme was announced a second time to include consumers using 50 and 100 units of power.

During the hearing, the director-general of law for the ECP said that the function of the commission was to provide a level playing field to all parties and that the Punjab government’s programme was an attempt to influence the upcoming by-elections.

“There are 10 days left in the by-elections. This programme should be stopped,” he said.

The Punjab chief executive’s counsel, however, stated that the programme would benefit consumers in August.

Subsequently, the CEC suspended the Punjab government’s Roshan Gharana programme till July 17, maintaining that action would be taken for violating the code of conduct.

“Therefore, the development programme should not be announced until the by-elections. The ECP rejects all propaganda to make by-elections controversial,” he said.

The electoral watchdog emphasised that elections would be transparent in the 20 constituencies of Punjab.

The CEC added that the provincial government should start the Roshan Gharana programme after the by-elections on July 17.

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