PESHAWAR: Over 40,000 security personnel will ensure security during the local government by-elections slated to take place in 23 districts of the province tomorrow (Sunday).
The by-elections were originally scheduled for Jan 23 but were cancelled in the wake of the Jan 20 terrorist attack on the Bacha Khan University, Charsadda.
On Friday, a meeting was held at the Civil Secretariat to discuss security for the by-elections.
Secretary for home and tribal affairs department Munir Azam chaired the meeting, where senior officials of the Election Commission of Pakistan, local government department, Frontier Constabulary and police were in attendance.
The participants reviewed security situation in the districts ready for by-polls, and ways to maintain law and order on the polling day.
ECP additional secretary Fida Mohammad Khan later told reporters that the commission had finalised all arrangements for the Feb 21 by-elections.
He said of a total of 609 polling stations, 278 had been declared most sensitive and 244 sensitive and that 19,456 security personnel would be deployed at the polling stations to maintain law and order.
Army men on call for tomorrow’s elections in 23 districts
Mr. Fida said besides police, the FC and Levies personnel would also be deployed in the districts, where elections were to take place.
He said the army personnel would be on call.
The ECP official said 350 lady health visitors would also be deployed at polling stations having the powers of lady constables for the day.
He said the ECP was satisfied with security arrangements made by the provincial government for the by-elections.
Mr. Fida said the funds required for the electoral exercise had been released to the returning officers and district returning officers, while ballot papers had also been dispatched to districts.
He said transport arrangements had been made for the polling staff and material.
The ECP official said the government had made proper security arrangements for the polling day and therefore, the people should step out to cast vote.
A home department official told Dawn that around 20,000 security personnel would be deployed to ensure security at polling stations, while 20,000 would be on patrol across the province.
He said the FC had provided around 30 platoons for security duty on the polling day, while levies personnel would be deployed for security purposes across Malakand division.
The official said 40 security men would be deployed at most sensitive polling stations each, while 30 personnel would guard sensitive and 20 at other polling stations each.
He said the provincial government had asked the federal government to provide army troops to ensure peace during the by-elections but the latter had yet to give a response.
The ECP records show that 828 candidates are contesting for 361 seats of 156 village and neighbourhood, district and tehsil councils.
The polling will take place at 141 village and neighbourhood councils and eight district, tehsil and town councils.
A total of 574 candidates have already been elected unopposed.
According to the records, 693, 502 people including 398,804 men and 29,698 women are eligible to cast vote in the elections.
A total of 609 polling stations will be set up, including 160 for men, 146 for women, and 303 combined, while there will be 1,748 polling booths, including 995 for men and 753 for women.
A total of 4,341 polling staff will be deployed to conduct the electoral exercise. Also, 254 district returning officers, returning officers and assistant returning officers will be deployed.
The election will cost Rs232.95 million.
In a related development, the Peshawar deputy commissioner imposed Section 144 in the provincial capital from Feb 20 to Feb 22 to avoid any mishap during the by-elections.
An order issued by the DC office said there would be a ban on pillion riding, entry of Afghan refugees into the city, and sale and use of firecrackers during that period.
Meanwhile, Swabi is all set for the LG by-elections.
The ECP officials said elections would be held in five village councils of Swabi including Bamkhel (north), Bamkhel (south), Kalabat-I, Sheikh Jana-I and Karnal Sher Kili (east).
They said majority of male councillors had returned unopposed.
The officials said elections would take place for 74 women seats, 42 men seats and 154 minority seats.
In Swat, the district police officer on Friday promised the foolproof security for the peaceful holding of the local government by-elections.
He was speaking during a meeting, where local political leaders, elders and police officials were in attendance.
The DPO briefed participants about security situation in the district and measures for the security during by-elections.
Meanwhile, Swat deputy commissioner Atifur Rehman imposed Section 144 by banning the display of weapons from Feb 19 to Feb 28.
In Lakki Marwat, DC Mohammad Bakhtiar Khan chaired a meeting to review arrangements for the Feb 21 by-elections in the district.
In Shangla, nine members of village councils were elected unopposed.
Nine seats are vacant in village councils of Sangri, Wahabkhel, Basi, Dandai, Sanila, and Neem Kalley.
Published in Dawn, February 20th, 2016