Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikander Sultan Raja on Thursday wrote a letter to Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, seeking deployment of Rangers in six "sensitive" constituencies of Punjab and Sindh for the upcoming by-elections.

In the letter, the CEC sought deployment of Rangers in four constituencies in Lahore, one in Multan and also in Karachi's NA-245. The NA 245 by-election is scheduled for July 27 whereas the by-elections in Punjab will take place on July 17.

Raja also sought deployment of the Quick Response Force (QRF) for 15 other constituencies in Punjab to avoid any "untoward situation".

In the letter, CEC Raja noted that the atmosphere in the 20 Punjab constituencies was "politically charged". "Certain political leaders are raising the emotions of their workers/supporters," he said.

He said that in such a situation, police alone would not be able to provide a conducive environment to conduct elections in a free, fair and peaceful manner.

CEC Raja said the Election Commission of Pakistan's (ECP) experience with the NA-240 by-election and the first phase of local government elections in Sindh showed that police alone was unable to control violence due to fewer numbers.

"Most of the times, these numerical inadequacies coupled with [a] lack of proper training and resources prohibit timely action, thus resulting in violence spiralling out of control."

He went on to say that the political narrative had "vitiated the atmosphere considerable, causing increased polarisation" and putting the upcoming election at risk.

Raja said Rangers were an effective deterrent in the first phase of the local government in Sindh, "although at times the reaction time was longer than would have been required to curtail a flare up of [a] situation".

In the letter, the CEC pointed out that under Article 220 of the Constitution, all executive authorities in the federation and the provinces were bound to assist the ECP in discharging its duties.

"Keeping in view the law and order situation of the areas/constituencies, it is reiterated that the Pakistan Rangers (Punjab)/Pakistan Rangers (Sindh) be deployed in sensitive four constituencies of Lahore and one each in Multan and NA-245 Karachi and enhanced QRF for other 15 constituencies in Punjab so that the by-elections in the constituencies could be conducted peacefully, fairly and to guard against any untoward situation," he said.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the ECP said that the CEC had also written to Chief of Army Staff Qamar Javed Bajwa in this regard. "Police alone are not enough to enforce the law and prevent incidents of violence which is why the ECP has sought additional support from the army and Rangers," he said.

The development comes after violence marred both the local government elections in Sindh and the by-election in Karachi's NA-240. One person was shot dead while 10 were injured during the NA-240 (Korangi Karachi II) by-election on June 16.

Days after, two died and at least a dozen were injured as violence — including firing and scuffles — marred the first phase of local bodies elections in Sindh.

Last week, Raja had written to COAS Bajwa and sought assistance of the armed forces to conduct by-polls in different constituencies of national and provincial assemblies in Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as well as for both phases of local government polls in Sindh.

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