• Commission summons finance secretary
• Seeks army’s deployment at polling stations for Feb 8 polls, points out shortfall of over 277,000 policemen
• Caretaker information minister rules out ‘financial crisis’

ISLAMABAD: The Finance Minis­try on Monday assured the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) of releasing Rs17 billion “in a day or two” after the poll watchdog raised alarm over the delay in the release of the urgently needed amount for the conduct of polls on February 8.

Separately, the ECP called for the army and civil armed forces to be deployed outside the polling stations to meet a countrywide shortfall of over 277,000 police personnel.

“The funds are most likely to be released today (Tuesday),” a senior official of the Finance Ministry told Dawn after Secretary Finance Imdadullah Bosal was summoned to the ECP to explain his position.

The finance secretary assured the poll watchdog that the funds required by the ECP urgently would be released in a day or two.

Meanwhile, caretaker Minister for Information and Broadcasting and Parliamentary Affairs Murtaza Solangi ruled out any crisis in meeting the ECP’s financial needs, adds APP. Whatever budgeted amount is needed by the ECP, will be released as per its needs accordingly, he wrote on X.

Sources said the ECP had asked for Rs51bn for the elections, but later after a series of meetings settled for Rs47bn, out of which Rs5bn had been released during the previous fiscal year. In the budget passed in June, the government had allocated Rs42bn for the elections, out of which only Rs10bn had been released to the ECP so far.

They said the Finance Ministry was repeatedly approached and a written reminder was also sent for an immediate release of funds. However, there was no positive response, compelling the ECP to summon the finance secretary.

A source claimed that the ECP was so perturbed over the delay in the disbursement of funds that the chief election commissioner had decided to write to caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar to seek his intervention.

A senior ECP official, however, told Dawn that after the assurance held out by the finance secretary, there was no need to approach the PM.

“Rs17 billion are urgently needed for holding the general elections on February 8, which he [secretary] has promised to release urgently,” he remarked.

A Finance Ministry official said the letter written by the ECP on Nov 14 was received on Nov 18. “Disbursement of funds requires approval at various levels,” he explained.

Army at polling stations

In a related development, the ECP sought deployment of army and civil armed forces outside polling stations for the elections to meet the shortfall of over 277,000 police personnel across the country.

“Keeping in view the deficiency of police personnel indicated by the provinces and the federal capital, the Election Commission of Pakistan has decided that in view of the clear shortfall of 277558 personnel. the services of Pakistan Army and Civil Armed Forces (CAFs) shall have to be requisitioned in static mode in terms of Article 220 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan at the polling stations to ensure smooth elections. This is all the more relevant in the context of fragile security cum law and order situation prevalent in country,” said the ECP in a letter written to Secretary Interior Aftab Akbar Durrani.

“….the availability of Pak Army and Civil Armed Forces (CAFs) may be ensured both in static and in QRF mode to fill the shortfall of security personnel and necessary confirmation to this affect may be furnished at the earliest but not later than 7th December, 2023 for presentation before the Hon’ble Commission,” read the letter, a copy of which is available with Dawn.

The letter says that while the ECP takes all necessary steps to organise an election in accordance with the Constitution and the relevant election laws, it also expects the same commitment from the executive authorities and law enforcement agencies to maintain law and order in the area of the constituencies during the conduct of elections.

It says the ECP will be issuing the election programme shortly which would facilitate the working of Ministry of Interior. Keeping in view the exigency of the matter, the ECP sought instant report from the IGPs regarding requirement, availability and to indicate the shortfall of police personnel for ensuring fool-proof security arrangements and peaceful conduct of forthcoming elections.

Citing reports, the document says there was a shortfall of 169,110 personnel in Punjab, 18,500 in Sindh, 56,717 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 13,769 in Balochistan and 4,500 in Islamabad.

Published in Dawn, December 5th, 2023

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