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ISLAMABAD: The Army will be deployed in and outside all the around 85,000 polling stations being established for the coming general elections while security cameras will be installed at over 20,000 sensitive polling stations.

The decision was taken at a meeting held here with Chief Election Commi­ssioner Sardar Muhammad Raza in the chair to put the finishing touches to security arrangements for the elections. The meeting was attended, besides others, by the newly appointed chief secretaries and inspectors generals of police and representatives of the army, security agencies and provincial election commissions.

Briefing reporters after the meeting, Director (elections) of the ECP Nadeem Qasim said additional deployment of armed forces and security personnel would be made at the most sensitive polling stations.

He said ballot papers would also be printed and transported to polling stations under the army’s supervision. He said a security plan was being chalked out keeping in view the volatile security situation during the previous elections, where political leaders as well as ECP officials had come under attack.

Troops to be deployed in and outside around 85,000 polling stations; security cameras will be installed at over 20,000 sensitive stations

A senior official of the ECP told Dawn this time armed forces’ personnel to be deployed at polling stations would be imparted training. Master trainers of the army would be imparted training to train others to be deployed to perform poll duty. A training manual for security personnel has been prepared.

He said a 50-minute video showing voters’ entry into polling stations, voting procedure and responsibilities of polling staff would be shown to army personnel.

Answering a question about security of politicians, the official said the meeting decided that the ECP would maintain a continued liaison with the National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta). A meeting with Nacta authorities would be held after Eidul Fitr to get their input about threat perception for politicians. The provincial governments would be issued guidelines in line with the input received from Nacta. The official said the meeting also discussed security of polling staff.

He said categorisation of normal, sensitive and most sensitive polling stations might take a little less than two weeks and traditional hotspots were likely to remain the same. He recalled that of the more than 72,000 polling stations set up across the country for the 2013 general elections, over 21,000 had been declared sensitive, with 8,250 sensitive stations in Sindh alone.

He said a decision to this effect would be taken on the basis of reports from the provincial election commissioners after gathering data from district election offices. He said classification of polling stations would be based on the history of bloodshed and violence in the areas concerned.

Answering a question, the official said a code of conduct had been prepared for security personnel to be deployed for poll duty, which bound them to cooperate with district returning officers, returning officers and other polling staff and discharge their duties honestly and strictly in accordance with the law.

He said the code of conduct required the security personnel to remain impartial and not to work against or in favour of a political party or a candidate.

They would be bound to implement orders of returning officers and presiding officers during the polling.

The ECP official said the security personnel would be required to assist voters and ensure that they formed a queue to exercise their right to franchise.

Special persons, elderly persons, ailing voters, including pregnant women, and transgenders will be facilitated and queues will be broken to allow them to cast their votes first.

Ban on recruitment lifted

The ECP on Thursday lifted the ban on recruitment in government departments placed by it on April 11.

A notification issued by the ECP, however, says that the caretaker governments would not make promotions or appointments of major public officials but might make acting or short-term appointments in public interest.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2018