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ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has suspended the Roshan Gharana programme of the Punjab government, announced with fanfare by Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz, till July 17. Under the scheme, households that use consume than 100 units per month would not have to pay electricity bills.

The ECP sent a notice to the Punjab chief minister over violation of code of conduct regarding the upcoming by-elections. A three-member commission headed by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja heard the case.

Hamza Shebhaz’s lawyer, in his reply submitted to the court, argued that the announcement regarding free electricity to those using 100 units was already part of the budget. The aim was not to attract votes, he said, saying the relief wasn’t meant for a particlar constituency. If a development scheme is announced in a particular constituency and attracts voters, then it is a violation of the code of conduct, it said.

Upon this, the CEC inquired asked why a press conference was needed for the announcement if it was already in the budget.

The director general of the Punjab Law Department informed the commission that the Punjab chief minister had directly influenced the election with the announcement. If it was included in the budget, it would have been announced after the by-election. This move is a violation of the code of conduct, he told the ECP commission.

The CEC observed that the by-elections in 20 constituencies of Punjab, on seats vacated after de-notification of PTI’s dissident lawmakers, are very important as the reults are directly related to the provincial government.

Upon completion of the arguments, the ECP suspended the announcement of the Roshan Gharana scheme till July 17.