ISLAMABAD - The Election Commission of Pakistan would summon the food and agriculture and information secretaries about the farmers’ package announced by the prime minister ahead of the local government polls in the Punjab and Sindh.

The ECP, at its high-level meeting yesterday, was of the view that the announcement of multi-billion package for farmers across the country was a gross violation of the code of conduct set by the commission ahead of the local government polls in the two provinces that would start in November in three different phases.

The ECP code of conduct strictly prevents the government from announcing uplift schemes after the announcement of the LG election schedule and by-elections in three constituencies in the Punjab.

To the contrary, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif last Tuesday announced a hefty amount of Rs 341 billion aimed at giving relief to farmers. The fund will enable the farmers’ community to receive the money in grants, subsidies and loan advances from the government. Although the ECP earlier kept quiet over the blatant violation of the code of conduct by Premier Sharif, Chief Election Commissioner Justice (r) Sardar Raza Khan and its members held informal meetings to strategise on the violation.

“The commission would summon the food and agriculture and information secretaries to inform them that the relief package announced by Premier Sharif was a gross violation of the code of conduct,” ECP Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Muhammad told media persons.

The new schemes represent the government’s largest economic development programme for the agricultural sector since it was voted into office in 2013. The funds will be provided through immediate cash grants and subsidies on agricultural inputs worth Rs 140 billion and loan advances worth Rs 185 billion will also be released while disbursements will begin this year, the relief package says.

The ECP secretary said a letter had been sent to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) chairman, directing him to monitor advertisements and campaign materials financed by political parties during the LG polls.

He said: “The Pemra has been directed to ensure that a balanced coverage is given to all political parties and contesting candidates and that analysis and reporting in the media is not biased.”

To a question, he said a strict action would be taken against those violating the code of conduct, adding that no political party, including Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, would be allowed to hold public gatherings in NA-122 (Lahore) ahead of the by-polls.

The code of conduct framed ahead of LG polls in Sindh and Punjab also categorically says the political parties and candidates participating in the elections shall not offer or announce any financial help to any person or institution after the announcement of the schedule.

Major opposition parties have already rejected the package announced by the prime minister for farmers, terming it a pack of lies and gimmickry of the PML-N government aimed at influencing the coming LG elections.