CEC wants more troops for elections, army complies

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With general elections only two days away, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Justice (r) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim on Thursday expressed “dissatisfaction” over the current security plan for general elections, terming it “insufficient” following which the ISPR has agreed to send more troops for security.
In a letter written to Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the CEC urged Kayani for deployment of army personnel at the most sensitive polling stations.
The army leadership positively responded to the call of the CEC, stating that the General Headquarters has ordered army troops to modify and further strengthen their plans and affect deployment at the most sensitive polling stations, to the extent possible.
Security has become a major irritant for the May 11 polls as successive incidents of terrorist attacks have left many injured and killed across the country. The terrorists have targeted politicians in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Balochistan and Sindh but Thursday’s incident of alleged kidnapping of Ali Haider Gilani, son of former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, has sent shock-waves across country. This was the first reported incident of kidnapping of a candidate taking part in polls and was also the first act of violence in Punjab.
When contacted, a well-placed official at the ISPR stated, “Despite very less reaction time for a change in the finalised security plan, for which deployment of all law enforcing personnel has already been completed and coordinated, in deference to the CEC’s request General Headquarters has ordered army troops to modify and further strengthen their plans and affect deployment at the most sensitive polling stations to the extent possible”.
“Priority for deployment on these most sensitive polling stations would be based on assessment by local civil administration in coordination with intelligence, security officials and local army commanders. These deployments will be solely for the purpose of providing assistance in security duties for elections as envisaged under article 245 of the constitution,” the ISPR official added.
The CEC’s letter reflected he might have reviewed his previous approval to the security plan agreed upon on May 1. According to the agreed plan, 600,000 security personnel were to perform election duties and as many as 50,000 soldiers were to be deployed as a Quick Response Force to deal with any emergency on polling day. About 20 to 50 Quick Response Force personnel were supposed to man each constituency. Security personnel were to be deployed on all polling stations throughout the country on May 10.
Per the previously agreed plan, Police, Levies, Rangers, FC and volunteers were to perform the security duties while the army’s Quick Response Force was to move on call where there was a need to cope with any situation at polling stations throughout the country. It was also decided in principle that the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Police was to be deployed in Islamabad and KP. Under the plan, seven security personnel, including police and rangers, were to be deployed on the most sensitive polling stations, five on moderately sensitive and four on normal polling stations.
However, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), in order to provide security to voters, on Tuesday issued a rejoinder to the previously agreed security plan and suggested all provincial governments to deploy at least 10 security personnel at highly sensitive polling stations.
An ECP official said around 10 police officials, including paramilitary personnel, would perform security duties at every sensitive polling station. He said the ECP suggested provincial governments to deploy 10 security personnel at highly sensitive polling stations, seven at sensitive and five at normal polling stations.
The CEC, in his letter, further said to ensure free, fair and transparent elections the commission and Pakistan Army had to jointly ensure security. In this regard‚ Ebrahim said despite limitations in terms of resources, the presence of army personnel on highly sensitive polling stations is mandatory on the polling day.
In his letter to the COAS, Ebrahim asked Gen Kayani for army personnel at the most sensitive polling stations to ensure a peaceful and transparent process of casting votes.
Out of the 69, 729 polling stations set up across the country to help the 86.189 million registered national voters (86,189,802) exercise their right of franchise, around 15, 681 polling stations have been declared “highly sensitive” by the ECP while another 15, 214 have been classified as “sensitive.” However, 38, 834 polling stations are deemed to be safe and normal for voters. A further break-up shows that out of the 15, 681 polling stations that have been declared “highly sensitive,” as many as 8,439 are in Punjab, 3,064 are in Sindh, 2,140 are located in KP, 1,783 in Balochistan, 243 in the tribal belt and 12 in Islamabad.

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