PESHAWAR: The Election Commission of Pakistan on Wednesday decided to deploy army personnel along with the local police at polling stations in the 2nd phase of local body elections as well as in the re-polling, where electoral process was withheld due to vandalism in the first phase.

The ECP took the decision of the army’s deployment along with police while hearing different cases related to the mismanagement at polling stations in the first phase of the local body polls.

In a statement issued here, it also expressed concern about the failure of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to provide security to the polling stations.

The first phase of local body elections were held in 17 districts of the province, while the ECP has fixed March 27 for the second phase in the remaining 18 districts.

ECP complains of govt failure about security arrangements in first phase

The districts, where elections were conducted in the first phase, included Buner, Bajaur, Swabi, Peshawar, Nowshera, Kohat, Karak, Dera Ismail Khan, Bannu, Tank, Haripur, Khyber, Mohmand, Charsadda, Hangu and Lakki Marwat.

During the hearing, the videos of vandalism at Peshawar’s two polling stations were played. In the videos, several people present inside polling stations were shown tearing ballot papers and breaking ballot boxes.

Similarly, the people inside polling stations were also shown manhandling the polling staff.

The ECP observed that there were only two or three police personnel deployed in the polling stations who “remained silent spectator during vandalism and didn’t stop people from damaging polling materials.”

It also took notice of provincial government’s ‘failure’ to maintain law and order and observed that prior to the first phase of elections, the provincial chief secretary and police chief were told to deploy the police personnel outside polling stations in sufficient numbers to ensure peaceful polling.

The ECP said both high ups had assured it of the deployment of eight policemen in every polling station and said the Frontier Constabulary would also perform duties at polling stations.

It, however, said the police deployment at polling stations was not in accordance with the contingency plan shared with the ECP.

“Keeping in view the miserable failure of the provincial government in maintaining law and order, the ECP has decided to deploy army personnel along with police in the 2nd phase of local body elections as well as re-polling,” he said.

The ECP also communicated to the defence ministry its decision of army deployment at polling station and decided to act against those involved in acts of vandalism.

An official of the provincial ECP told Dawn that polling process were withheld in many polling stations of Peshawar, Khyber, Mohmand, Bannu and Kohat districts due to mismanagement.

He said in the first phase, the electoral process was completed in 47 tehsil councils out of 66 and the ECP would notify the names of the returned candidates in a couple of days.

The official said the ECP would notify names of winning candidates after they produced details of their election expenses.

When contacted, human rights minister Shaukat Yousafzai held the ECP’s staff members responsible for mismanagement inside polling stations.

He said the provincial government was to ensure law and order situation outside polling station as the police were not allowed to interfere in the affairs of the polling staff.

Mr Yousafzai said the overall law and order situation outside polling stations were peaceful.

“Police personnel and security arrangements were provided to polling stations as demanded by the ECP,” he said.

He said the provincial government had repeatedly suggested to the ECP to hold local body elections in several phases but the latter didn’t agree with the former.

Published in Dawn, January 6th, 2022

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