ISLAMABAD - Accusing Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf of pre-poll rigging by means of foul play in the funds spending, the Election Commission of Pakistan has banned with immediate effect the diversion of public funds as well as the recruitments in the government departments ahead of the general elections.“The commission has considered the repeated concern of the people as expressed and voiced in the national press that money allocated to various important development projects in the country is being diverted to the discretionary fund of the Prime Minister of Pakistan for its utilisation in the development of his constituency, is nothing short of yet another facet of pre-poll-rigging which if not checked and brought to an immediate end is likely to influence the electoral process adversely and thus sending an extremely wrong message to the public at large, making the election tainted and falling short of the constitutional provisions contained in Article 218 (3) of the constitution,” the electoral body said in a clear reference suggestive of the PM’s involvement in pre-poll rigging through bribe and massive funds spending, in a statement issued here on Monday. “It has become imperative that the commission takes all necessary steps under the law to prevent any action on the part of the federal, provincial and local governments that amounts to influencing the results of upcoming general elections by depriving candidates from having a level playing field,” the statement added.Reacting to this development, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said that the government held the ECP in ‘high esteem’ and respected its decision but “decisions based on wild allegations and insinuations be avoided.”“The ECP is independent and autonomous body. We greatly respect its freedom, hold it in high esteem and respect its decisions. However, decisions based on wild allegations and insinuations be avoided and if anyone has any proof regarding the diversion of public funds to the PM’s constituency, he/she better come up with concrete evidence or documentary proof instead of levelling baseless allegations,” he told The Nation on Monday. The electoral body’s decision comes at a time when millions of rupees have already been allegedly diverted to the PM’s discretionary fund and large-scale appointments are seemingly being made in blatant violation of merit and prescribed rules in an apparent bid from the ruling Pakistan People’s Party to oblige the favourites and to attract publics’ votes in the general elections in the face of its widely unpopular repute owing to unbridled inflation, deteriorated law and order situation, ever- rising crimes, rampant corruption, increasing unemployment, growing injustice, looming energy crises and a host of other problems emanating from administrative lapses involving malgovernance. According to the ECP press release, all kinds of recruitments in any ministry, division or department of the federal government or any provincial government are banned forthwith except recruitments by the federal or provincial public service commissions. The diversion of funds already allocated to various development projects in the country is also banned forthwith and the spending of funds so diverted shall stand frozen, the press release adds.“It is of grave concern for all the people in different segments of society that some government departments are in the process of inducting thousands of people on various positions which amounts to pre-poll rigging as political bribe. The election commission is of the view that such mass recruitments at this point of time when the general elections of the National Assembly and the Provincial Assemblies are going to take place shortly, will substantially influence the results of elections, therefore, it is imperative on all standards of legal, moral and democratic ethics that all kinds of recruitments except the recruitments which are made by the federal and provincial public service commissions be banned forthwith,” the commission said while citing Articles 218(3) and 220 of the constitution, Article 6 of the Election Commission Order 2002, and Sections 103 (c) and 104 of the Representation of the People Act, 1976 to justify the exercise of its powers. Agencies add: Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf has diverted Rs15 billion towards his discretionary development funding under the People Works Programme (PWP-II) in order to appease voters before the coming elections.These funds came from 106 development projects, including major dams, health, education, floods and neglected areas such as Balochistan, AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan and many others.Funds from 106 development projects titled ‘adjustments in PSDP 2012-13 for PWP-II’ were diverted towards the controversial Gujjar Khan package which is the home constituency of the premier and many other parts of the country to win support for PPP candidates at the cost of crucial projects.Flouting approval of parliament for approving budget 2012-13 including PSDP, such an unprecedented level of diversion of allocated resources towards PWP-11 have damaged the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP).