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PESHAWAR: The Election Commission of Pakistan has rejected the Awami National Party’s plea not to deploy army troops inside polling stations during the upcoming elections in 16 constituencies of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly in merged tribal districts.

Addressing a press conference here on Saturday after chairing a meeting of his party’s think tank, senior vice-president Ameer Haider Khan Hoti said that ANP provincial president Aimal Wali Khan had requested the ECP to review its decision about deployment of troops inside polling stations in former Fata.

He opined that like previous general elections the deployment of army troops inside polling stations would again make the process controversial. Therefore, the ECP should give this responsibility to the civil administration. Unfortunately, the commission rejected the ANP’s request, he added.

Rejecting apprehensions of the ANP, the ECP responded in a letter: “The security officials are deployed inside and outside the polling stations to hold elections in a peaceful manner and to avoid any untoward incident on the polling day. However, it is clarified that security officials have neither been allowed to interfere in the polling process nor they would be. The apprehensions in this regard are not rightly placed.”

Haider Hoti, who had served as KP chief minister from 2008 to 2013, said that army became controversial after deployment of troops inside and outside the polling stations in the general elections and political parties did not accept the election results.

Replying to a question, he said that ANP would not boycott the upcoming elections despite rejection of its plea regarding troops’ deployment.

“Deployment of troops inside polling stations in the coming elections will undermine the image of the army and will also question transparency of the poll results,” he said and urged the commission to revisit its decision.

He expressed serious reservations about postponing the elections in seven merged tribal districts for 20 days. He said that the KP government was intentionally trying to delay elections on the pretext of law and order situation in merged districts. He asked the provincial government to explain the level of threat and who were under threat.

“Can the government give assurance that the level of threat will reduce after 20 days and people will cast vote in a free and peaceful atmosphere,” questioned Mr Hoti, adding that ECP should ensure transparency in elections. He demanded of the government to lift curfew and Section 144 which had been imposed in certain areas of tribal districts especially North Waziristan and South Waziristan districts.

He said that political parties and candidates could not run election campaign and rallies due to curfew and Section 144. He said that on the one hand elections were delayed for 20 days, on the other the government had yet to introduce in Senate the 26th constitutional amendment bill regarding increase in seats for tribal districts in the provincial assembly. The National Assembly has already passed the bill.

Haider Hoti said that the party’s think tank demanded production of detained MNAs, including Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar, during the ongoing session of National Assembly. He said that voters of Waziristan, Lahore, Nawabshah and some other areas did not have representations in NA after detention of their MNAs.

He said that the NA Speaker had the powers to issue production order of all detained MNAs. He said that opposition leader Hamza Shahbaz was produced in the assembly on the order of Punjab Assembly Speaker Pervez Elahi.

He said that ANP would observe protests across the province on June 18 against media censorship. Similarly, the party would take out rallies on June 24 to register its protest against delay in investigations in high-profile financial scandals in KP. He asked the National Accountability Bureau to expedite investigations into Malam Jabba land scam and other cases.

Published in Dawn, EOS, June 16th, 2019