ISLAMABAD: The interior ministry has set up a special cell which will make security arrangements for May 11 elections but the appointment of its head has sparked a controversy.

The post has been given to an official of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) -- retired brigadier Tariq Lodhi -- who is known here as a favourite of former interior minister Rehman Malik.

But, the brigadier’s new assignment has become as controversial as was his earlier posting in the Ministry of Interior as additional secretary.

According to an official letter, Mr Lodhi has been named to head the election security cell. But questions are being raised over the assigning of a person who is not an employee of the ministry to the post which in the present situation is considered to be quite sensitive.

Since the ministry does not have a spokesman, attempts to contact its secretary Khawaja Siddique Akbar proved futile. Shafqat Jalil, press secretary to the caretaker prime minister, also avoided commenting on the appointment and asked this correspondent to approach the secretary.Sources in the ministry said Brig Lodhi was basically an IB official but had been posted in the UK as a director of the National Database Registration Authority three years ago. He is said to have been sent abroad after he and some other IB officials were accused of distributing “secret” agency funds at the behest of the PPP government to dislodge the Punjab government in 2008-9.

Former chief of the IB, Dr Shoaib Suddle, had said in the Supreme Court that the money was withdrawn from the intelligence agency’s secret funds. “When I brought the matter to the notice of (then) prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani he kept quiet for political reasons,” Mr Suddle said.

Brig Lodhi returned from the UK last month and started working as additional secretary in the ministry, replacing a ministry official, Tariq Hayat who had been appointed on the post before him.

“Tariq Hayat was not allowed to sit in his office as Mr Lodhi had already occupied his position without any notification from the competent authority,” the sources said.

They said the order of posting of additional secretary was issued by the establishment division with the approval of the prime minister. But there was no such notification issued by the establishment division in Brig Lodhi’s case.


of the cell

The election security cell will work on categorising risk areas/levels, establish control rooms at division/district/provincial levels, develop security plans in collaboration with police authorities, fix responsibilities for all stakeholders and hold periodic meetings between the Election Commission Pakistan (ECP) and police authorities for constant review of security requirements and arrangements.

The ministry had already been apprised by the ECP about threats to its filed offices and employees, particularly in Balochistan.

In the province, three ECP offices have so far been damaged, in Awaran, Khuzdar and Panjgur. District election commissioner Mohammad Ziaullah Qasmi was killed by gunmen in broad daylight in the provincial capital Quetta on March 12.

The ministry has assured the commission of devising a pre/post-election minimum level security plan for the staff, logistics and assets of the ECP, voters, candidates, polling stations and local/foreign election observers.

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