ISLAMABAD: Candidates will either be provided adequate security or allowed to carry arms to protect themselves during the coming elections.
Ban on display of weapons is to be enforced strictly, says the Election Commission of Pakistan in a working paper.
But, it adds, either the respective provincial or the federal government will provide security to all candidates after finalisation of the list of contestants by returning officers. Otherwise, they will have to be exempted from the arms ban to enable them to make their own security arrangements.
The proposal will require an amendment to the code of conduct which proposes a complete ban on display of arms by candidates and their supporters.
When contacted, a senior ECP official said necessary changes could be made in the code of conduct because the working paper was yet to be finalised. A separate code for law-enforcement personnel had also been prepared, he added.
The paper will be discussed at a meeting of the commission with federal and provincial government officials on Jan 2.
Provincial chief secretaries, home secretaries, inspectors general of police, federal secretaries for defence, interior, foreign affairs, establishment and information, directors general Rangers from Punjab and Sindh and directors general Frontier Corps from Balochistan and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and chief commissioner, Islamabad, will attend the meeting.
The meeting will discuss administrative and security arrangements to be made at about 80,000 polling stations for which about 600,000 election officials are required.
The working paper says that while the primary responsibility for peace and security will be of the provincial police, paramilitary forces will also be deployed to achieve the desired objectives.
It says the commission is aware of the responsibilities of the job the army is doing along the border and in Fata and certain other areas, but it will have to play a during the elections in support of the civil administration in accordance with requirements identified by provincial governments.
The paper says there are certain areas where full security may have to be provided by the army while in other areas it will be acting in aid of civil authorities under security plans prepared by district police officers (DPOs) who will be primarily responsible for maintaining law and order and ensuring peaceful elections.
In case of any violation of ECP directives or negligence by ‘any official’ immediate disciplinary action will be initiated against him, starting with suspension, and completing subsequent proceedings at the earliest.
The working paper proposes establishment of district security committees comprising DRO, DCO and DPO to review the security situation and dispose of complaints. The names of persons responsible for security at polling stations will be provided to presiding officers who will be empowered to issue necessary orders in their capacity as magistrate first class.
In addition to police, paramilitary or army personnel will accompany the presiding officers who will deliver results of polling stations to returning officers. In case of non-compliance or failure to provide security at polling stations or negligence with regard to safe delivery of polling results security personnel will be held accountable, individually and collectively.
Referring to the fragile law and order situation in the country, the paper says it is important to use the entire law-enforcement apparatus to ensure peaceful atmosphere during the campaign period, on the polling day, and till the announcement of consolidated results. It must be realised that peaceful conduct of elections is necessary for smooth transaction of power.