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21,000 polling stations declared sensitive

April 19, 2013

— File Photo

ISLAMABAD: Of the more than 72,000 polling stations to be set up across the country for the general elections, over 21,000 have been declared sensitive. A total of 8,250 sensitive stations are in Sindh alone.

Sources in the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) told Dawn that according to reports sent by provincial election commissioners after gathering data from district offices of the ECP, as many as 21,326 polling stations in different parts of the country were sensitive, with 10,273 of them being highly sensitive.

An official said the classification was based on the history of bloodshed and violence in the areas concerned and indicated that the number of sensitive polling stations was likely to go up after recent attacks on election gatherings.

The number of most sensitive stations in Sindh stands at 4,629. As many as 5,528 polling stations in Punjab have been identified as sensitive, with 2,617 of them falling in the category of ‘most sensitive’.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 4,036 polling stations and in Balochistan 2,522 polling stations have been declared sensitive, with 1,056 and 1,451 of them being termed ‘most sensitive’ respectively.

In the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) 969 polling stations have been declared sensitive with 510 of them as most sensitive.

Meanwhile, President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday contacted Chief Election Commissioner retired Justice Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim and discussed with him security of candidates.

ECP Secretary Ishtiak Ahmad Khan told reporters that during his telephonic conversation President Zardari asked the CEC to contact the provincial governments personally over security of electoral candidates.

He said a meeting of the ECP about a security plan for elections would be held on April 25. Presided over by the CEC, the meeting would be attended by representatives of provincial governments, interior and defence ministries and law-enforcement agencies.

He said the meeting would decide on the deployment of army troops at polling stations. A draft law to facilitate 4.5 million overseas Pakistanis to exercise their right to vote through electronic means would be sent to the law ministry within two days for promulgation of an ordinance by the president. The decision was taken at a meeting of the ECP held with the CEC in the chair. All the members except member from Sindh, retired Justice Roshan Essani, attended the meeting.

The meeting discussed a letter sent to the ECP by PML-N Secretary General Iqbal Zafar Jhagra in which he had accused the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) of indulging in mudslinging against his party’s leadership.

Claiming that this was unfair, Mr Jhagra asked the ECP to act against individuals who did it. The CEC, however, was of the view that it had nothing to do with the issue which did not fell under its ambit.

The meeting also discussed a letter from the Senate’s special committee on election issues alleging that the ECP was transgressing its authorities. Mr Ahmad said the ECP drew its powers from the constitution and was well aware of its powers and responsibilities.

The printing of ballot papers will commence on Friday (today) and would be completed by April 30.

The last date for withdrawal of candidature expired on Thursday and the final list of candidates will be published today (Friday).