ISLAMABAD: Election authorities yesterday formally requested Ministry of Defence for deploying army in Lodhran district of Punjab whereby polls on National Assembly seat are scheduled to be held on December 23. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) formally sent letter to ministry of defence for approving deployment of army in NA-154 keeping in view the recommendations of election officers in Lodhran who termed the election sensitive.

The returning officer and special branch police have categorized majority of polling stations in NA-154 as highly sensitive as activists of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) and opposition Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) are campaigning aggressively to woo voters ahead of polling day. The ECP has sought military personnel for ensuring security on December 23 and not Rangers. The letter sent to defence ministry said that each polling station should be manned by at least two military officials, one inside and the other outside the polling places. The constituency fell vacant after PTI’s Jahangir Khan Tareen had challenged the May 2013 victory of PML-N’s Siddique Khan Baloch in NA-154. The tribunal de-seated the PML-N lawmaker subsequently.

Tareen is strong candidate of PTI though, initially, the party’s leadership had disapproved the idea of fielding Tareen as candidate for the slot. The ECP has finalised arrangements for filling the vacant seat by printing ballot papers, appointment of election staff and other essential formalities. The election will be a neck-and-neck contest between the ruling PML-N and the opposition PTI. NA-154 is one of the four constituencies the PTI insisted to be probed but the government declined to meet the demand of opposition triggering Imran Khan to embark on a 126-day long sit-in outside Parliament House last year. Meanwhile, the ECP issued notification about establishment of election tribunals in Punjab that will hear the grievances of candidates relating to local government polls in Punjab that concluded on December 5.

The ECP has appointed seven retired judges of districts and sessions courts as heads of the seven election tribunals on contract basis with all perks and privileges. The tribunals’ judges will be serving their respective tribunals in BPS-22 and will be drawing perks and privileges given to senior bureaucrats. The judges will resolve the election disputes till February 26, 2016 and their contract will be renewed in case the cases are pending with the tribunals.