ISLAMABAD: The military’s top brass has approved the deployment of troops for security duties during the July 25 general elections.

The decision was taken at a meeting of the corps commanders at the General Headquarters on Wednesday, which was presided over by Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Bajwa.

After the meeting, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement: “Forum also discussed provision of mandated assistance to Election Commission of Pakistan for free, fair and transparent conduct of general elections 2018.”

It said Gen Bajwa directed that this “national duty” be performed with “utmost responsibility”. At the same time he instructed that election duties should not affect the requirements for dealing with the persisting “defence and internal security challenges”.

Gen Bajwa had earlier this week met caretaker Prime Minister Nasirul Mulk and discussed with him security arrangements for the elections.

The ISPR did not say how many troops would be deployed for security duties. It is being speculated that as many as 350,000 troops may be deployed.

Around 70,000 troops were provided for security duties during the 2013 polls that took place under a more grim security environment. Troops were then deployed only at “the most sensitive polling stations”.

The security situation has vastly improved over the years. Sources in the Election Commission say armed forces’ personnel would be deployed this year in and outside the 85,000 polling stations across the country.

A military source, however, said that the size of deployment was being worked out.

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

ECP Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Mohammad, according to a source, recently told a meeting that a code of conduct for the personnel performing security duties would be formally notified and they would be answerable to the presiding officers.

Published in Dawn, June 28th, 2018

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