Additional troops to be deployed during Punjab by-polls

Published July 16, 2022
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah chairs a meeting on Friday to finalise arrangements regarding the Punjab by-polls. — PID
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah chairs a meeting on Friday to finalise arrangements regarding the Punjab by-polls. — PID

ISLAMABAD: The federal government has decided to beef up security in six sensitive constituencies of Punjab where by-polls are scheduled to take place on Sunday amidst heightened political tensions.

A meeting chaired by Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah on Friday was told that four constituencies in Lahore and one each in Multan and Bhakkar are sensitive. The meeting decided to deploy the Frontier Constabulary and Rangers to ensure security and law and order during the crucial by-polls on 20 seats of the Punjab Assembly, said a statement issued by the interior ministry.

The meeting took place a day after the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) took notice of reports about the presence of armed men in various constituencies of Punjab and sought army’s deployment in sensitive constituencies.

On the basis of intelligence reports, the meeting decided to ban entry of “miscreant elements” into the constituencies where by-polls are set to take place. It reviewed reports that at least 300 armed men have been brought from Gujrat to Lahore to disrupt peace during the by-polls. The meeting decided to take pre-emptive measures to ensure that such armed persons cannot affect the law and order situation during the elections.

Four constituencies in Lahore, one each in Multan and Bhakkar declared sensitive

It was decided that there would be complete ban on carrying or displaying arms and ammunition in those constituencies of Punjab and Sindh where by-polls are being held. The meeting also decided that violators would be immediately arrested and their weapons and licences confiscated.

“We will not allow presence of miscreants and armed men in the constituencies,” the interior minister said, adding that law enforcement agencies and the provincial government should ensure ban on carrying of weapons. He directed the provincial administration to show zero tolerance for such persons and also keep an eye as some miscreants have been brought from other provinces to those constituencies of Punjab where by-polls would be held.

The meeting decided to set up a special control room at the interior ministry to continuously monitor the law and order situation on July 16 and 17.

The interior minister directed the secretary interior to ensure implementation of the decisions taken during the meeting. “It is our national duty to ensure law and order during the election,” the minister was quoted as saying during the meeting.

Mr Sanaullah said the government would use all available resources to ensure security arrangement during the by-elections as directed by the ECP, adding that all civil armed forces under the interior ministry would assist the provincial governments of Punjab and Sindh to ensure security during the by-polls.

Punjab Home Minister Atta Tarar, Interior Secretary Yousaf Naseem Khokhar, Chief Secretary Kamran Ali Afzal, Inspector General of Police Rao Sardar Ali Khan and senior officials of the army and civil administration attended the meeting.

Earlier in the day, Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja contacted Interior Minister Sanaullah and discussed with the latter security arrangements for the by-polls.

Meanwhile, the ECP said all necessary arrangements for holding by-elections in 20 Punjab Assembly constituencies, including printing of ballot papers had been completed. The commission issued standard operating procedures (SOPs) for polling staff to conduct by-polls in Punjab.

The ECP asked the candidates to ensure training of their polling agents and instruct them not to leave the polling station without receiving the presiding officer’s verified Form 45.

The election campaign came to a close at 12pm on the night between Friday and Saturday, with the ECP warning that any violation would entail action under the law.

Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2022

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