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RAWALPINDI: The Punjab government has directed divisional police chiefs across the province to monitor more than 780 ‘troublemakers’ from various political parties identified in a survey to prevent untoward incidents during the campaigning period and polling.

However, the government is also worried that taking action against such antisocial elements in political parties may be a sensitive issue because of their political affiliations.

According to sources, the provincial authorities have asked divisional and district police chiefs and divisional commissioners to hold divisional intelligence committee meetings immediately and take the necessary measures to prevent any disruptive activity during the campaigning period.

Survey finds 352 possible antisocial elements affiliated with PML-N, 203 with PTI

The police have been directed to constitute Quick Response Force squads to manage affairs before, during and after the elections to deal with any eventuality and law and order situation.

Sources said that provincial authorities had already reported that between June 1 and June 21, nine election-related clashes had been reported in Punjab in which two people were killed.

During the 2013 elections, 101 incidents of election-related violence took place in Punjab, leaving 23 dead and 63 injured. Firearms were used in 89 of these incidents.

The home department has said that in view of the threat perception, the intelligence report and past events, the Provincial Intelligence Committee’s (PIC) field staff conducted a survey that identified 786 antisocial elements and miscreants who are likely to indulge in disruptive activities during the campaigning period and on election day.

The survey suggested that the highest number of such elements belonging to political parties is in Gujranwala, where staff identified 174, followed by 147 in Faisalabad. Another 109 miscreants were identified in Multan and 36 is Lahore.

The survey said 352 troublemakers were affiliated with the PML-N, followed by 203 with Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, 22 with the PML-Q, 35 with the PPP, 16 with Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan and 96 with other political parties who belong mostly to local independent groups.

Sources said the political activity is likely to gain momentum with the finalisation of tickets and the announcement of final candidates by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). This will generate friction amongst supporters of rival candidates, which will have a bearing on the province’s law and order situation due to the possible participation of criminal elements – particularly proclaimed offenders – in campaigning. This will further add to the threat to law and order in Punjab.

In light of the gravity of the situation, it was proposed that the list of antisocial elements, miscreants and likely troublemakers be immediately shared with members of the district intelligence committee.

All members of the committees should also give their input so that a concurrent list of individuals can be prepared for further legal action against them.

The survey report also pointed out that since the majority of such elements have political affiliations, taking legal action against them would be a sensitive issue and therefore due caution is necessary while devising an effective strategy to sensitise them during campaigning, and all possible preparations – such as a sharp reaction from political parties and the media – should be assessed before legal action is taken.

The home department has also suggested increased intelligence gathering and sharing among intelligence agencies, and the code of conduct for candidates issued by the ECP should be implemented in letter and spirit to avoid any trouble during the elections.

Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2018