ECP secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Muhammad says security cameras will be installed at 18,000  polling stations across the country.
ECP secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Muhammad says security cameras will be installed at 18,000 polling stations across the country.

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) said on Thursday that the army would not have a role in the transmission of election results the responsibility for which would remain with presiding officers, and stressed that the commission had complete control of the electoral exercise.

“The army will only provide security in accordance with the Constitution and will have nothing to do with the conduct of elections,” ECP secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Muhammad told a press conference on Thursday.

He rejected the claims that the army had been given extraordinary powers in connection with the elections.

Also read: The ECP has given magisterial powers to army officers on election duty, but what does that really mean?

The army would have the same powers it had in previous elections, he said, and added that the army had been deployed at polling stations in a number of by-polls held in previous years on the demand of major political parties.

Secretary says 108 candidature cases are still pending with courts

Asserting that the control of elections remained with the ECP, he said the polling staff had been appointed and trained by the ECP, scrutiny of nomination papers was conducted by returning officers drawn from the judiciary, ballot papers were printed by the ECP, a polling scheme was prepared by the returning officers and so on.

Nevertheless, the ECP appears to be in a fix as it has over 100 cases involving nomination of candidates for National and Provincial Assemblies still pending in courts of law.

In what puts a big question mark on the fate of the polls which are less than two weeks away, the cases of 108 candidates out of a total 849 contenders for National and Provincial Assemblies are pending in the courts, with 81 in Sindh alone, followed by 22 in Punjab and five in Balochistan.

Mr Fateh said the printing of ballot papers for many of such constituencies had been put on hold. He, however, expressed the confidence that the cases would be decided soon to enable the ECP to get the ballot papers printed and transported down to the polling stations on time.

He said under the plan, the printing of ballot papers is to be completed by July 20, and transported to polling stations by July 24. He said most of the election material including ballot boxes, partition screens, tamper evident bags and stationery bags had already been transported to polling stations.

Condemning the recent suicide attack on a corner meeting of the Awami National Party in Peshawar, he said it proved that the law and order situation in the country was not normal and that the ‘monster’ continued to rear its head. He described the decision to deploy the army at all 85,000 polling stations as timely and right. “It would have been too late had we started efforts for it today,” he remarked.

Mr Fateh said security cameras will be installed at 18,000 polling stations around the country. He said under the standard operating procedure, those cameras would not be installed at places where the secrecy of vote could be compromised.

About the accusations made by some lawmakers that candidates belonging to their parties were being harassed and intimated and a level playing field had been denied to them, he asked the political parties to formally reveal the names of those intimidating them.

Answering a question, he said the National Counter terrorism authority (Nacta) had shared the specifics of the threats to political leaders and candidates with the ECP, and said the ECP would continue to liaise with Nacta. He said there was a threat of candidates being targeted and asked the provincial governments to remain vigilant.

Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2018