LAHORE  - Hundreds of military troops begin patrolling on streets in parts of Lahore on Saturday where more than 300,000 voters are expected to cast their ballots for crucial by-polls.

Some three thousand policemen are also deployed in the downtown to maintain law and order in NA-122. The voting will start today morning at 08:00am.

A senior official told The Nation that the Pakistan Army personnel would also be deployed inside the polling stations to ensure free, fair, and transparent voting. “At least one thousand soldiers are put on-guard in this constituency,” said the official who requested anonymity.

Police and military troops yesterday held separate flag-march in the NA-122 constituency in a bid to improve sense of security among the citizens. Cops and military personnel on gun-fitted vehicles were seen patrolling leading arties of the metropolis yesterday.

A police officer said that there were no specific security threats in the by-elections but the “law enforcement agencies are leaving no stone unturned to ensure foolproof security.”

Also, the city traffic police finalised the traffic management plan. A spokesperson for the Lahore traffic police said that at least 400 traffic wardens would be deployed in the NA-122 constituency to ensure smooth flow of traffic on roads. Dozens of traffic policemen will also be deployed at leading crossings and important roads to help and guide the voters, he said.

A complete ban on the display of weapons by any citizen except law enforcement agencies will be followed after DCO Capt (r) Muhammad Usman has imposed section 144 in the district for two days.

According to central police office, more than 8600 policemen are deployed on security duties for by-polls to be held in two constituencies of Lahore and Okara districts on Sunday (today).

A Punjab police spokeswoman earlier said, “On the instructions of Election Commission of Pakistan, Army troops will also be deployed at polling stations”. All the officers and officials have strictly been directed to remain impartial and neutral during the elections.

Massive police deployment and increased patrolling are described as the key component of the security strategy prepared for by-elections.

According to the security plan, at least 8688 police officials are deployed for security of 494 polling stations of both the districts during by elections in NA-122 and PP-147.

Similarly, the patrolling teams, under the SP rank officer, will remain on patrolling duty throughout the day during the polling process. Police will ensure four-layer security with additional deployment of anti-riot force.

Law enforcement and security agencies are taking unprecedented security measures to maintain law and order amid cut-throat competition. Hundreds of policewoman will be deployed around female polling stations to ensure physical search of the voters.

Earlier, Lahore Capital City Police Officer Muhammad Amin Wains approved the security plan while presiding over a high-level meeting at the police headquarters.

Police already have obtained “surety bonds” from organisers of election offices of the political parties contesting by-polls in Lahore’s NA-122 constituency. The guarantee also bounds political workers from displaying any sort of vulgarity or aggression against their opponents. Similarly, the candidates and their main supporters will be held responsible in case their activist create lawlessness or trouble for their rivals.

At a time when PTI Chief Imran Khan accused Punjab police of becoming the “militant wing” of the ruling PML-N, the Lahore police chief said the cops are strictly ordered to focus on security and remain neutral.

Cops are conducting search operations against suspected elements in several parts of the provincial metropolis. Dozens of CCTV cameras are installed inside and in the surroundings of polling stations to keep a vigilant eye on the activities of miscreants.

A police officer said that a central control room has been activated at the office of Lahore DIG (Operations) Haider Ashraf from where cops are monitoring security situation minute-by-minute.

Plainclothesmen will also be deployed around polling stations to monitor the security situation more actively, the officer added.