ECP leaves no ambiguity about Feb 8 elections

Published February 2, 2024
Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja presides over an ECP meeting on Thursday. — ECP
Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja presides over an ECP meeting on Thursday. — ECP

• Polls to be held on time despite security challenges in Balochistan and KP, vows CEC
• Warns elements obstructing polls, disturbing peace ‘to be dealt with strictly’
• Says EMS can be run offline in case of internet disruption
• Interior minister says federal, provincial govts ‘fully prepared’ to conduct elections

ISLAMABAD: Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja declared on Thursday that general elections scheduled for Feb 8 will proceed as planned despite security challenges, particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.

Chairing a high-level meeting to review the worsening law and order situation in the two provinces, Mr Raja said the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was fully prepared to hold elections on time and there should be no ambiguity about it.

He said that with the help of law enforcement agencies and the Pakistan Army, the elements obstructing the elections and disturbing peace would be dealt with strictly and no leniency would be shown to anyone in this regard.

Mr Raja expressed concern over the deteriorating law and order situation in the two provinces, particularly the unabated attacks on the offices of ECP and political rallies.

He identified terrorism as the primary threat to the electoral process and expressed his full confidence in the security forces’ capability to manage the situation effectively. He underscored the necessity of ensuring a safe and peaceful environment for political parties, candidates and voters to enable them to participate in the electoral process without fear.

He urged the law enfo­rcement agencies to beware of attempts by various elements to take the law into their own hands on the election day, especially during the counting process and declaration of results.

The meeting was attended by the caretaker interior minister, interior secretary, director general of the Intelligence Bureau, chief secretaries and police chiefs of KP and Balochistan, representatives of other agencies, ECP’s secretary and other senior officials.

The meeting reviewed the overall law and order situation with particular reference to Balochistan and KP and its impact on the nationwide electoral exercise to be held next week.

Caretaker Interior Minister Gohar Ejaz said he had returned from a visit to Balochistan, where he reviewed the security situation.

He stressed that the federal and provincial governments were fully prepared to ensure peaceful elections.

“All preparations in this regard are complete, and full cooperation and resources will be provided to the Election Commi­ssion for the conduct of the general elections, and there will be no negligence at any level in this regard,” he assured the meeting.

The interior secretary, chief secretaries and IGs of KP and Balochistan, and representatives of other agencies apprised the ECP of the law and order situation across the country, especially in the two provinces, and all the security and administrative measures taken for the safe and peaceful conduct of the general elections.

The chief secretary and IG Balochistan informed the meeting that the provincial administration and security agencies are fully alert and ready to fight terrorism. They apprised the commission of the ongoing operation against terrorists in the province and assured that no political or non-political force would be allowed to obstruct the election process and those doing so would be dealt with strictly.

Likewise, the KP’s chief secretary and IG highlighted the security measures taken while highlighting the threats faced by the elections in the province.

The meeting was informed that elections are being held in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for the first time after the merger of erstwhile Fata with the province, but preparations at the administrative level are complete and all resources have been provided to the law enforcement agencies.

Election Management System

After the meeting, CEC Sikandar Raja told reporters that the ECP would use the Election Management System (EMS) despite voices of concern from political parties fearing a repeat of the 2018 Result Transmission System (RTS) fiasco.

He said the system would function even if the issue of internet connectivity arose on the polling day.

He said there was no discussion regarding the internet shutdown on the polling day, but the Election Management System would work offline in case of internet service disruption.

In reply to a question, Mr Raja said that ballot papers were not available for the by-elections at present. He contended that reducing the size of the ballot paper would not make any difference and the box where the ballot is to be stamped by the voters would be sufficient in size.

He noted that due to court decisions, the plan for printing ballot papers had to be changed and they had to be reprinted in many constituencies. He claimed that the Election Commission provided a level playing field to all political parties and submitted a report to the Supreme Court in this regard. He said that instructions were issued to the chief secretaries and IGs to provide equal opportunities to all.

Meanwhile, the ECP has taken notice of the blasts in Quetta, Turbat and Jafarabad and has sought an immediate report from Balochistan’s chief secretary and IG.

It has also taken notice of the presence of guns and incidents of aerial firing during the election campaign of a political party in Sindh’s Kashmore and Sukkur districts and sought an immediate report from Sindh’s chief secretary and IG and directed them to take immediate legal action against all those involved in it.

Published in Dawn, February 2nd, 2024


To find your constituency and location of your polling booth, SMS your NIC number (no spaces) to 8300. Once you know your constituency, visit the ECP website here for candidates.

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