The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) suspended the Punjab government’s Roshan Gharana Programme on Thursday, citing it as an attempt to influence the upcoming by-elections for 20 seats in the Punjab Assembly. On Monday, Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz announced the Roshan Gharana Program, which called for the distribution of subsidised electricity with up to 100 free units to power consumers. The ECP summoned the Punjab chief minister on Thursday (today) for announcing the Roshan Gharana Programme in Punjab, ahead of the scheduled by-elections for 20 Punjab Assembly seats on July 17, in an alleged violation of the electoral code of conduct. The Punjab chief minister was directed to appear in person or through his counsel at the ECP headquarters on Tuesday, according to a notice issued by ECP’s Deputy Director (Law) Saima Tariq Janjuha. The lawyer for Hamza Shehbaz appeared before the ECP on his behalf on Thursday and submitted the reply, claiming that the Punjab chief minister’s announcement did not apply to the by-election constituencies. “The Punjab government’s Roshan Gharana Programme was announced in the budget,” the lawyer stated. “If you make such announcements during the election campaign, it will be considered an attempt to influence the election,” said the ECP Sindh member. “If we had any intention to influence the election, we would have never increased petrol prices,” said the lawyer for Hamza Shehbaz. “But, increasing petrol prices is not the prerogative of the provincial government,” the ECP Sindh member said. “If you had announced the programme in the budget, what was the need to announce it again?” the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) questioned. “This programme has been announced for those consuming 50 and 100 units of electricity as inflation has increased,” said the lawyer for Hamza Shehbaz. “The job of the election commission is to provide a level playing field to all parties. The announcement of the Punjab government’s programme is an attempt to influence the by-elections. There are only 10 days left in the by-elections; therefore, this programme should be stopped,” said the ECP director general (Law). “The power consumers will benefit from the Punjab government’s programme in August,” the lawyer for Hamza Shehbaz informed the ECP. “Our job is to provide a level playing field for all the parties. The ECP has suspended the Roshan Gharana Programme of the Punjab government till July 17. Any violation of the electoral code of conduct will be dealt with under the law. No development programme should be announced till by-elections,” said the CEC. “The ECP rejects all attempts to politicise the by-elections.” The ECP now has more support from law enforcement than ever before. By-elections in 20 Punjab constituencies will be transparent,” he added.