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PESHAWAR: Peshawar district returning officer Mohammad Naeem has requested the Election Commission of Pakistan to order the deployment of the Pakistan Army for the imminent NA-4 by-elections to ensure peaceful polling.

Polling for the seat, which had fallen vacant due to the death of dissident PTI MNA Gulzar Khan, is scheduled to take place on Oct 26. Fourteen candidates are in the running for the seat.

A source in the ECP told Dawn that the DRO had sought the deployment of the army troops in the constituency saying the area was very sensitive. He said not only the area bordered tribal areas but it had also been affected by militancy.

“These factors necessitate military deployment on polling day to ensure peace,” he said.

Peshawar SSP (operations) Sajjad Khan told Dawn that the deployment of military troops in NA-4 on the by-election day was under consideration. He however said it would be the ECP’s decision to ask for the army’s deployment or otherwise and that the police had no say in it.

The SSP said the city police were chalking out a security plan to ensure peaceful elections on Oct 26 and had tentatively planned to deploy around 7,000 personnel for the purpose. He said the constituency would have 269 polling stations and 181 of them had been declared most sensitive and 88 sensitive.

Mr Sajjad said the constituency had been divided into seven zones and that the personnel deployed to each zone would be headed by a gazetted officer. He said mobile units of quick and rapid response forces would be deployed in all zones to ensure peace on the polling day.

The SSP said the police would also cover rooftops around the polling stations. He said the police would ensure full implementation of the ECP’s code of conduct regarding restriction on political gatherings within 300 meters of polling stations.

The constituency is covered by eight police stations of the city. Most of them fall in rural areas, including Mattani, Badhbher, Urmur, Phandu and Chamkani, which have witnessed violent incidents in the past.

In a statement issued here on Thursday, the ECP said it would use electronic voting machines on experimental basis in some polling stations of the constituency.

It said the exercise was aimed at evaluation of benefits or difficulties to the voters resulting from use of electronic machines and to judge the machines performance.

The ECP said the electronic voting machines would be used at about 35 polling stations of the NA-4 constituency.

It said machines would be used under section 103 of Electronic Voting Machine Election Act 2017 and that a voter can poll his vote by using a machine in 20 seconds time.

The ECP also asked voters registered at 35 polling stations saying the machines would be installed to use these gadgets so that the ECP could evaluate their performance.

Also in the day, the ECP issued notices to all 14 contestants directing them for failing to submit their weekly expenditures statement to the authorities concerned.

Published in Dawn, October 13th, 2017