ISLAMABAD: Officials of the National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) will brief the chief election commissioner (CEC) on security threats to political leadership and the prevailing security situation across the country on Saturday (today).

The briefing will take place in response to a letter written by the CEC to the national coordinator of Nacta to seek an immediate briefing on the issues. The briefing, according to the letter, will take place in the chamber of the CEC.

Meanwhile, taking notice of the reports that electoral candidates were being harassed and a level-playing field was being denied to them, CEC retired Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza has also written a letter to caretaker Chief Minister of Punjab Dr Hasan Askari — the second in two days — asking him to ensure that no harassment was caused to political workers.

Over 17,000 polling stations across country declared highly sensitive; Punjab CM asked to ensure that political workers are not harassed

A senior Nacta official early this week had disclosed the names of six personalities, including Imran Khan and Hafiz Saeed’s son, who could be targeted by terrorists during the ongoing election campaigns.

“Six people include Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan, Awami National Party leaders Asfandyar Wali and Ameer Haider Hoti, Qaumi Watan Party head Aftab Sherpao, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl leader Akram Khan Durrani and Hafiz Saeed’s son Talha Saeed. Moreover, there are also threats to senior leadership of the Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz,” Nacta Director Obaid Farooq had said while briefing the Senate Standing Committee on Interior.

He said Nacta had forwarded 12 threat alerts to the federal interior and provincial home ministries as well as law enforcement agencies.

Since then three terror attacks, targeting leaders of the ANP, JUI-F and the Balochistan Awami Party, have shocked the nation, making many wonder why security has not been provided to election candidates despite clear war­nings.

In a related development, the CEC has asked the caretaker chief minister and the inspector general of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police to explain why security had not been provided to election candidates despite repeated directives issued by him.

The CEC directed the chief minister and the IG to immediately provide security to all candidates without any discrimination and create a propitious and peaceful environment for polls.

Meanwhile, as many as 17,007 polling stations have been declared highly sensitive across the country, with 5,878 in Sindh alone. The number of highly sensitive polling stations in Punjab and the federal capital is 5,487, KP and the tribal districts 3,874 and Balochistan 1,768.

The ECP has already decided to deploy armed forces in and outside all polling stations. Security cameras will also be installed at highly sensitive polling stations. The CEC’s letter to the Punjab chief minister, with which a reference received from former speaker of the National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq has been enclosed, says that if candidates and their supporters running election campaigns are obstructed, it can render the entire electoral exercise questionable.

“I would, therefore, very strongly urge you to take measures whereby no undue harassment is caused to political workers. While the law cannot be stopped from taking its course, its usage needs to be very correct,” read the letter written on Friday.

Earlier in a letter written to the chief minister on Thursday, the CEC said that nobody could be allowed to take the law into their own hands, but at the same time it was also not acceptable that genuine electioneering was hindered by the administration.

“You are, therefore, requested to take a holistic view of the situation in order that enabling election environment is not vitiated. In this regard caution is advised where there is any probability of electioneering being held hostage in the name of law and order,” the letter said.

Published in Dawn, July 14th, 2018