ISLAMABAD, May 4: The federal cabinet was informed on Saturday that an elaborate security apparatus had been put in place to ensure an environment conducive to holding of elections.

The cabinet, which met here with caretaker Prime Minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso in the chair, was informed that the law and order situation was relatively better, but the threat of conspiracies to sabotage the electoral process was still there.

The law and order situation remained the focus of the meeting which gave final touches to the arrangements for the polls.

Briefing reporters after the meeting, Information Minister Arif Nizami said the interior ministry had stated in its presentation that federal and provincial governments were fully cognisant of the threats emanating from detractors constantly scheming to undermine the elections. Stringent measures were being taken for the protection of the candidates and to enable people to exercise their right to vote, he said.

The cabinet was informed that police and other civil armed forces would provide a secure environment during the electoral process and 70,000 troops were being deployed across the country to help the administration.

Mr Nizami, however, made it clear that personnel of the army and law-enforcement agencies would stay out of the polling stations because their presence inside would be against the sanctity of ballot.

The army will complete its deployment plan by May 6. It was already assisting in transportation of election material, including ballot papers, to the district treasuries.

The cabinet was informed that the provinces had prepared contingency plans for the elections. Special arrangements are being made for the protection of sensitive installations, including the power and communication network.

Comprehensive arrangements have also been made to enable internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas to vote.

Mr Nizami said the cabinet had asked the provinces to implement the ban on vehicles with tinted glasses and display of weapons.

He said a lot of homework was required before enabling overseas Pakistanis to exercise their right to vote. “Had it been done in haste, it would have opened a Pandora’s box.”

He said various aspects of the matter, including the possibility of the software being hacked, required detailed deliberations.

The cabinet decided to rename the national services and regulations division as health coordination and regulation. All health-related institutions spread across various ministries will be reorganised and placed under the renamed division.

The minister said in reply to a question that it was not in the mandate of the caretaker government to carry out accountability. “You have to choose between accountability and elections,” he said.

He said the caretaker governments in the past had carried out accountability instead of conducting polls and certain political parties had been targeted in the name of accountability.

Prime Minister Khoso said in his opening remarks that the government would not compromise on maintenance of peace and it would hold free and fair polls in a secure environment.

He said security for sensitive polling stations, candidates and voters had been beefed up.

The prime minister asked intelligence agencies to sharpen their intelligence gathering techniques to nip any trouble in the bud.

He asked citizens to cooperate with and assist the law-enforcement agencies to help defeat criminal elements who wanted to destabilise the country and disturb the election process.

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