The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday clarified that the armed forces will have no role in the transmission of election results.
The denial was issued in response to a report published in Dawn on July 9, titled 'Troops to play role in transmission of poll results', which had said that the security personnel will for the first time have a role in transmission of election results. The report had quoted the Code of Conduct for the upcoming elections for its premise.
An editorial published today, titled 'Dubious poll role for security forces', which had criticised the enhanced role for troops, was also mentioned in the rebuttal.
Responding to criticism, the commission today stated that the personnel will have no role in the transmission of results as only the concerned presiding officer (PO) would transmit results via the Result Transmission System (RTS) through returning officers (RO) according to Article 13(2) of the Elections Act, 2017.
It said that paragraph XIV of the Code of Conduct for Security Officials for General Elections 2018 only requires security personnel to ensure that the PO is able to freely and securely transmit the results.
Earlier today, Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor had said that an unprecedented number of troops, 371,388 to be exact, will perform duties during the election process.
He had also dismissed any concerns about the army's involvement in election rigging.
"How is it possible to tell 106m people who to vote for?" he had asked. "How is it possible that we secretly tell [around] 350,000 troops that 'you should do this'?"
Forces personnel to have magisterial powers
According to an ECP notification issued today, armed forces officials in-charge at polling stations will have the powers of 'Magistrate First Class' for the period of their deployment "to take cognisance" of certain offences and try them "in a summary way in accordance with the provisions of the said Code relating to summary trials".
This is not the first time that soldiers will be given magisterial powers during elections. The ECP has in the recent past accorded these powers to armed officers, including in by-polls following the 2013 general elections.
Armed forces will be deployed inside and outside all polling stations from July 23 to July 27 "for provision of [a] secure environment to assist [the] ECP in conduct of [the] election in [a] free, fair and transparent manner," the notification said.
The armed forces will also be deployed at the Printing Corporation of Pakistan and the Pakistan Post Foundation in Islamabad, and the National Security Printing Company in Karachi from June 27 to July 25 "to make fool proof security arrangements during the printing/stacking/storage of ballot papers".
The army will "provide security during transportation of ballot papers (including postal ballot)/material from printing presses to respective districts/polling stations and back to district treasuries/ECP's strong rooms as per the commission plan".
The armed forces will also be required to deploy "sufficient number of mobile vigilance teams/quick reaction force/reserves in all constituencies as part of an integrated security mechanism to provide a secure environment."
The officers are required to report irregularities or malpractices observed inside or outside the polling station to the Presiding Officer (PO) and follow his instructions. If the PO fails to address the issue, they are required to report the matter to the officer-in-charge of the army who will take action and also inform the concerned Returning Officer.