ISLAMABAD: In a move to provide level-playing field to all candidates and political parties in the upcoming elections, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has warned Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif against his planned visit to Thatta for launching a scheme before the second phase of local government polls in Sindh and issued a notice to Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz for violating the code of conduct by announcing the free electricity package ahead of by-election on 20 seats in Punjab Assembly.

In a notice over violation of the code of conduct for the elections, the ECP asked CM Hamza to appear before it in person or through his counsel tomorrow (July 7).

“Take notice and be informed that Election Commission of Pakistan has announced schedule for by-elections in 20 constituencies of Provincial Assembly of Punjab and poll is scheduled to be held on 17th July, 2022,” the notice read.

It also stated the ECP had issued a code of conduct on May 25 in order to provide level-playing field to all the contesting candidates and political parties.

The ECP had also issued directives that no government functionary or elected representative, including a local government functionary or elected representative, should announce any development scheme for the constituencies, where by-elections were under process till July 17.

It pointed out that the ECP was obliged under Article 218(3) of the Constitution 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 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 subsidy relief package for the consumers of electricity of Punjab Province under 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 7th July, 2022 at 10am and to submit your response in this regard,” the notice stated.

While speaking at a press conference on Monday, Punjab CM Hamza announced the relief programme, which is supposed to benefit an estimated nine million poor families — about half of the Punjab’s population. “I was told not to take big decisions without a cabinet to steer under-developed areas out of difficult economic conditions. It could become a NAB (National Accountability Bureau) case, but I said I am ready to face any difficulty to provide relief to the people,” the chief minister told the presser.

Warning to PM

Also, the ECP barred Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif from visiting Thatta for the planned ground-breaking ceremony of Greater Karachi Bulk Water Supply Scheme, ahead of the second phase of local government elections in Sindh.

According to ECP’s media wing, the regional election commissioner, Thatta division, who is also district returning officer, in a notice to follow the code of conduct warned 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 election, hence, requires absolute adherence to the law,” it stated.

The ECP on June 10 announced the schedule for the second phase of local government election in Sindh, according to which the election in 14 districts (Karachi, Hyderabad and Thatta division) of Sindh would take place on July 24.

“The president, prime minister, chairman/deputy chairman senate, speaker /deputy speaker of an assembly, federal ministers, ministers of the state, governors, chief ministers, provincial ministers and advisers to the prime minister and the chief ministers, mayor/chairman their deputies and other public office holders shall not participate in election campaign in any manner whatsoever,” the code of conduct for the local government election issued on June 13 read.

“All executive authorities in the federation and in the provinces shall neither announce any development project nor use state resources in local government election, calculated to influence the elections in favour of a particular candidate,” it added.

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2022

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