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The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) secretary on Monday briefed the Senate Standing Committee on Interior in Islamabad to express concerns that police security for the upcoming polls may prove inadequate.

ECP Secretary Babar Yaqoob told the committee that security fears are a matter of great worry for the body, and claimed that there may be 'international attempts' to sabotage the election.

He informed the committee that 20,000 polling stations have been declared 'sensitive'.

The ECP secretary said that a request for the services of the army has been put through. A meeting pertaining to the matter had been held with army personnel, he told participants of the standing committee.

Nonetheless, he also pointed out that the army is busy guarding both the western and eastern borders of the country.

Yaqoob said that the matter of whether army personnel should be posted just at 'sensitive' polling stations or at all polling stations is still under consideration, but it is suggested that all polling stations should have army personnel stationed there for security.

'Sensitive' polling stations could have cameras installed in them, he proposed, adding that security and election proceedings could be managed and monitored by means of the cameras, which could help bring transparency to the election.

Standard operating procedure for the installation of cameras have been decided, but the matter of the installation of cameras has not yet been decided upon, Yaqoob said.

He assured the committee that they would be provided an in-camera briefing on security concerns for the upcoming polls.

President Mamnoon Hussain has set July 25 as the date for general elections in the country.

Countdown to elections

According to a tentative schedule obtained by Dawn, the timeline may be as follows:

Schedule:

  • June 4: last date for filing of nomination papers
  • June 5: list of nominated candidates to be published
  • June 12: last day for scrutiny of nomination papers
  • June 18: last day for appeals against acceptance/rejection of nomination papers
  • June 25: last day for decisions on appeals by election tribunals
  • June 26: list of validly nominated candidates will be published
  • June 27: last date for withdrawal of nomination papers
  • June 28: ROs to allocated election symbols to contesting candidates, final list of candidates to be published

An ECP official earlier pointed out that it would be for the first time in the electoral history of the country that the scrutiny period would be extended from seven to eight days and the campaign period would be increased from 21 days to 28 days.

He said a meeting of the ECP had been convened on May 29 to decide controversies over allocation of symbols to political parties.

The official said the ECP had met all its targets and was fully ready to hold free, fair and transparent elections.

He said delimitation of constituencies had already taken place and final electoral rolls were also ready. He said district returning officers (DROs), returning officers (ROs) and presiding officers (POs) had been appointed and training of polling staff had also started.

He said the commission had announced its plan of action to hold polls and was well on track as far as its implementation was concerned.

He said around 85,000 polling stations with some 285,000 polling booths would be established across the country and security cameras would be installed at the most sensitive polling stations.

He said training had already been imparted to 133 DROs while training to 933 ROs, regional election commissioners and district election commissioners was under way and would be completed by June 1. He said training of POs would be completed by July 15.

Answering a question, he said no decision had been taken yet on the deployment of army and Rangers in and outside polling stations, adding that it would be done, if required, at most sensitive polling stations.

The five-year term of the National Assembly and the Punjab Assembly will end on May 31 while the Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan assemblies will complete their terms on May 28.

Under Article 224 of the Constitution, elections for the national and provincial assemblies are to be held within 60 days following the day the term of the assemblies expires.