ISLAMABAD: The army on Monday deployed its troops in nine sensitive districts of Balochistan and is set to complete the process in the remaining 21 districts on Tuesday, a senior military official told Dawn.
The deployment in Kalat, Khuzdar, Kharan, Washuk, Awaran, Mastung, Panjgur, Turbat and Gwadar followed an approval of a plan for deployment of troops across the country during elections given at a special corps commanders conference. Chief of the Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani presided over the conference at the General Headquarters.
The deployment was aimed at protecting candidates and voters and providing a safe and secure environment on the polling day.
More than 6000 army soldiers will be deployed across Balochistan.
The military official said the troops would not be deployed inside polling stations; they would be stationed at strategically suitable places to act as quick response force as and when required.
According to him, security requirements of the Election Commission (ECP) and the federal and provincial governments were discussed at the meeting. The security plan was based on information about sensitive and most sensitive polling stations provided by the ECP and the overall law and order situation in the country.
The deployment in Balochistan was made on a requisition by the provincial government. Defence Secretary Lt Gen Asif Yasin Malik said at a meeting of the ECP on April 25 that the deployment of troops should be discussed by the provincial governments.
What prompted the government to seek deployment of army troops in addition to civil armed forces was a surge in pre-poll violence across the country.
Since April 21, when election campaigns formally started, the Taliban and other militant groups have carried out over 20 attacks on political parties, killing 48 people and injuring over 200.
Four people were killed when an election convoy of PML-N leader Sardar Sanaullah Zehri came under a bomb attack in Anjira area of Khuzdar in Balochistan on April 16. Mr Zehri survived the attack, but his son, brother and nephew and a guard were killed. At least 25 people were injured.
The banned Baloch Liberation Army had claimed responsibility for the attack.
The worsening law and order situation had also led to refusal by teachers in Balochistan to perform election duties — a decision which was reversed after talks with the government.
The continuing violence ahead of elections was seen by many as an attempt to sabotage the electoral process.
A statement by the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan issued on March 18 said it all. Declaring elections part of an un-Islamic democratic system bound to serve the interests of infidels and enemies of Islam, it warned voters to stay away from political rallies of three liberal, democratic parties — PPP, Muttahida Qaumi Movement and Awami National Party.
The continuing attacks on election offices of political parties and their candidates are seen by the ECP as a failure of the provincial governments, which have been asked to ensure that candidates, leaders and voters are protected. The PPP, ANP and MQM, the main target of the attacks, however, appear to have been undeterred by terrorist threats and have called for holding of elections on time.