ISLAMABAD - The military has “no direct role” in nationwide elections due July 25, the army spokesman said Tuesday, after widespread allegations it is pressuring media and the ruling party in a bid to manipulate the polls.
Instead the military will deploy more than 370,000 soldiers on polling day to help ensure the vote goes smoothly, ISPR Director General Major General Asif Ghafoor said.
“The Pakistan armed forces have no direct role,” he told a packed press conference at General Headquarters in Rawalpindi, adding: “Let me make it clear, that we have no direct role.”
He also said that the political personalities are facing more safe today due to the sacrifices of the security forces.
He further denied involvement in the political process by either the army or its intelligence agencies.
Maj-Gen Ghafoor maintained that the armed forces will only have a role to facilitate the ECP. The ISPR chief said the armed forces would remain neutral and not interfere in the electoral process.
He categorically stated that in case of any irregularity, the personnel of armed forces would only observe and point out to the election commission and would not take any corrective measure on their own.
While the ECP in its notification said that the deployment of armed forces shall be made for the provision of a secure environment in the conduct of the election in a free, fair and transparent manner.
The military troops will be deployed inside and outside all the polling stations from July 23 to July 27 for the provision of the secure environment in the conduct of the election in free, fair and transparent manner, said the ECP notification.
It said that the armed forces have been given the responsibility to make foolproof security arrangements during the printing, stocking and storage of ballot papers.
It said that the armed forces shall provide security during the transportation of ballot papers and other materials from printing presses to respective polling stations and back to district treasuries or ECP’s strong rooms.
The notification said that the armed forces shall also deploy a sufficient number of mobile vigilance teams, Quick Reaction Force (DRF) and reserves in all constituencies to provide the secure environment.
The notification said that the security staffs deployed on polling stations were supposed to first report to the presiding officer, then officer-in-charge, and returning officers respectively if they found any irregularity or malpractice during the election process.
On the other hand, the ISPR director-general made it clear that the armed forces would provide necessary support to the ECP in the conduct of the general election in a free, fair and transparent manner.
The ISPR chief in his media briefing said that two personnel would be deployed inside and two outside sensitive polling stations while there would be normal deployment on other polling stations.
He said as per the mandate given by the ECP, they were also responsible for the security of printing presses during the printing of ballot papers.
“Security would also be provided for the transportation of the ballot papers to polling stations and dispatch of ballot boxes to the ECP’s strong rooms,” he said.
Maj-Gen Ghafoor pointed out that the armed forces would provide only security and the handling of the election material would remain the exclusive domain of the ECP.
He said that the Army has set up an election support centre in Rawalpindi for coordination with the ECP.
Replying to a question about allegations of rigging and political engineering, he said that allegations of rigging have always been levelled before and after elections in the past.
He said that the armed forces have been waging the war of survival of Pakistan for the last 15 years and they cannot deflect attention from the core issues of security and defence.
Answering a question regarding the election symbol of jeep allotted to various people, he said it was the ECP, which allotted election symbols to candidates and the armed forces had nothing to do with the specific case.
To another question, he said “Our response is in place regarding any cyber threat. Some forces are active on the social media against Pakistan’s political stability. Action will be taken if any act is taken repugnant to the security of Pakistan”.
He urged the media to play its role in creating awareness for free, fair, and transparent elections.
Regarding invisible forces, he said that anybody to be elected by the people of Pakistan will be acceptable to the armed forces. “We are the creature of God and not the aliens. We are serving the people of Pakistan,” he said. He also denied the role of the ISI in allotting election symbols to the contesting candidates. He also rejected the ISI’s involvement in the Multan episode where a PML-N candidate was roughed up allegedly by security personnel asking him to change his loyalty and return the PML-N’s ticket.
About donations for a fund established for the construction of dams, the ISPR chief said that the army chief has also donated his one-month salary for this purpose.
At the outset of Maj-Gen Ghafoor’s briefing, a 20-minute training movie was screened which has basically been produced for the awareness of the troops to be deployed for the election duty.
Meanwhile, the Election Commission of Pakistan on Tuesday gave powers of the first class magistrate to each officer-in-charge of armed forces performing security duty at polling stations.
Politicians safe because of army’s sacrifices: ISPR