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ECP ‘dos & don’ts’ for troops guarding polling stations

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ISLAMABAD: Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa calls on caretaker Prime Minister Nasirul Mulk at the Prime Minister Office on Monday.—INP
ISLAMABAD: Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa calls on caretaker Prime Minister Nasirul Mulk at the Prime Minister Office on Monday.—INP

ISLAMABAD: A meeting on preparations for the July 25 general elections was told on Monday that the army would guard polling stations under a clearly defined list of “dos and don’ts”.

The meeting was presided over by caretaker Prime Minister Nasirul Mulk and attended by the four chief ministers, chief secretaries and inspectors general of police, secretaries of defence, interior and finance and the deputy director general of military operations.

A source quoted Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Mohammad as telling the meeting that the army would come under the code of conduct for security personnel to be formally notified, a guiding principle of which would be that presiding officers would call the shots.

He said that between 350,000 and 400,000 armed forces’ personnel would be deployed in and outside the polling stations across the country.

The army has already been deployed at printing facilities in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad where the printing of ballot papers is to start from July 1.

Gen Bajwa, caretaker PM discuss internal security situation

The meeting was informed that election material had been dispatched to provincial and district headquarters. It was highlighted that army helicopters and C-130 planes would be needed for transporting the ballot papers.

It was told that security would be required for training venues, election-related officials and candidates and political leaders.

The ECP secretary also raised the issue of blatant violations of the code of conduct by candidates and political parties. He pointed out that the code had been prepared in consultation with the political parties.

He said deputy commissioners had been appointed as monitoring officers who had the powers not only to impose a fine of up to Rs50,000 for violation of the code of conduct such as use of official buildings as election camps, banners and billboards beyond the permissible size, demonstration of weapons and firing, but also to write to the ECP for disqualification of the offenders who kept on repeating the practice.

The ECP secretary briefed the meeting on the code of conduct that has been worked out for contesting candidates, presiding officers and polling staff, security agencies to be deployed for election duties, media and election observers.

During the meeting, the prime minister reiterated the interim government’s commitment that holding of elections was its prime responsibility and that the polls would be conducted on their schedule on July 25. He was given a briefing on the preparations and arrangements being made for smooth conduct of the general elections.

PM Mulk said that the federal and provincial governments were committed to providing every possible support to the ECP in the discharge of its constitutional obligations.

Meanwhile, Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa called on the prime minister and discussed with the latter the country’s internal security situation.

An official press release simply stated that “matters related to security came under discussion during the meeting”.

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2018

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