ISLAMABAD - Around a hundred Pakistan Army generals showed up at the concluding day of a high-profile commanders’ meeting on Thursday as the military command assigned the field formations the duties for troops’ engagement as response force and standby support during the general elections.

The reportedly two-day event marked the launch of military's security preparations for the general elections with a formal go-ahead given to the formation heads/field commanders. The serving lieutenant generals and major generals attended it.

According to military sources, more than 20 general officers commanding (GOCs), heading the infantry, artillery and armoured divisions, as well as army's strategic, aviation and air defence commands, attended the 70th Formation Commanders Conference.

Chaired by General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the “half-yearly conference was attended by the corps commanders, principal staff officers and all formation commanders”, according to a military statement.

"The forum was given comprehensive briefings on external and internal security environment and professional matters. Plans to provide security during May elections as asked for by the ECP were also discussed and deliberated," it added.

The military, in consultation with the Ministry of Interior and the ECP, has recently reviewed its operational strategy for the provision of security during the general polls. The new security plans envisages military's role as 'quick response force' at all the polling stations and concentrated troops deployment at those of the sensitive polling points, to provide secondary support to the law enforcement agencies, paramilitary forces and security agencies.

"Our men would be there to augment the operational capability of the LEAs and security agencies, in order to put up an effective response in the threat spectrum," an army officer informed. The field formations, he said, would operate under the respective commands of the GOCs or director generals, which would report to the corps commanders concerned.

The GOCs concerned would be authorised to issue command instructions to the two paramilitary forces: Frontier Corps and Rangers, where necessary, the army officer informed. Both the paramilitary forces are headed by the DGs concerned but can be brought under the operational control of the relevant GOCs or directly under the corps commanders concerned, depending upon security preferences adopted in any given terrain, according to the military source.

Last week, General Kayani had called on the Chief Election Commissioner Justice (r) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim, in a 'sudden' meeting that was apparently kept on a low key. The meeting was reportedly held at Islamabad Club, a few hours after the ECP decision not to go ahead with including a controversial column in the ballot papers for the general polls was made public. Titled, "None of the above," the said column was to be created for those voters who were not to cast their votes in favour of any electoral candidate. The ECP was to include this column on the reported demand from the security establishment.

In the same meeting, General Kayani is reported to have taken into confidence the CEC regarding the renewed strategy for security provision in general elections. Few days back, the Caretaker Interior Minister Malik Habib Khan had disclosed that the army was to act 'quick response force' during the general elections. Earlier, however, the ECP had demanded active deployment of the military troops at the sensitive polling stations.

Prior to that, the electoral body, last year, had demanded the provision of security from military at every polling station across the country. Citing extensive operational occupation to refuse the security provision at all the polling stations throughout Pakistan, the military had conveyed to the ECP that it was in position to provide security at the sensitive polling stations only. Both the sides had then agreed to identify the sensitive polling stations, which is to be done by the poll body in consultation with the federal and provincial governments.

The secretary ECP has visited the General Headquarters twice to discuss the security arrangements with the military command while the electoral body is yet to hand over the final list of the sensitive polling stations to the military, located across Pakistan.