LAHORE: Army troops and Rangers personnel will be deployed for the upcoming general elections in Punjab to perform security duties, the provincial caretaker government has said.

Chief Election Commi­s­s­­ioner (CEC) Sikandar Sul­tan Raja held a meeting with caretaker Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi and his cabinet members on Monday to discuss measures for ensuring ‘free and fair’ elections.

“The army and Rangers will be deployed in Punjab for the upcoming polls. As many as 147,000 army and paramilitary personnel will perform election security duties. Some 7,000 of 50,000 polling stations in Punjab have been declared sensitive,” Punjab caretaker Information Mini­ster Amir Mir told a presser.

He said it was agreed during the meeting that the elections would be held ‘on time’ and in a transparent manner.

When asked whether the ECP had finalised the date for the polls, as he claimed they would be held ‘on time,’ the minister responded, “No date for the polls has been finalised as of yet.”

The ECP had earlier announced that the elections might be held in the last week of January 2024.

Both the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) had long been demanding the ECP to give a specific date for the polls. They even raised doubts about the ECP’s intentions, alleging that it might announce the date once the legal hurdles of PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif were resolved.

Amir Mir further stated that the Punjab government has started preparations for the polls in 147 national and 297 provincial assembly seats.

“Some shortcomings have been reported in this regard, which will be redressed by the time of the elections,” he claimed.

According to the provincial government, a comprehensive review was conducted during the meeting, which assessed the arrangements made by the ECP and gauged the readiness of the Punjab government for the upcoming elections. The participants were also briefed on the security measures in place.

“The caretaker government and the ECP have affirmed their commitment to ensuring peaceful, impartial, and fair elections. The Punjab government will designate a focal person for coordination with the ECP in this regard,” the government said.

It said that CEC Raja underlined the collective responsibility to ensure that the elections should be conducted “freely and fairly within the stipulated time frame.”

“The delimitation phase will be concluded by Nov 30, 2023 and the ECP is prepared to oversee free and fair elections. The CEC also expressed satisfaction with the steps taken by the caretaker Punjab government,” it said.

It said that Mr Naqvi pledged “unwavering support to the ECP”, ensuring peaceful and transparent general elections.

He said that foolproof arrangements would be implemented to guarantee transparency in Punjab.

The meeting was attended by ECP members Nisar Ahmad Durrani (Sindh), Shah Muhammad Jatoi (Balochistan), retired Justice Ikramullah Khan (KP), Babar Hassan Bharwana (Punjab), special secretaries Dr Asif Hussain and Zafar Iqbal Hussain, Provincial Election Commissioner (Punjab) Saeed Gull, the chief secretary, the IGP and administrative secretaries.

Published in Dawn, October 31st, 2023

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