ISLAMABAD - Secretary Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Babar Yaqoob said on Thursday that equal level-playing is being provided to all the political parties in their election campaign in order to ensure free, fair and transparent elections on July 25.

Addressing a press conference, ECP Secretary urged electoral candidates being threatened or pressurised by any institution or rivals or political rivals should approach and inform the ECP beforehand.

He said that the concerned authorities have been asked to provide security to political leaders and candidates during their campaigns, including corner meetings.

The statement comes two days after the Awami National Party (ANP) leader Haroon Bilour and 19 other people were killed in a blast during the party’s electioneering rally in Peshawar.

Referring to the Peshawar attack, he said, the authorities were more vigilant. “The finalised number for sensitive polling stations stands at 17,000, and CCTV cameras are being installed at 18,000 polling stations. “The concerned departments have been directed to provide security to political leaders during election campaign including corner meetings,” he added.

On the role of the armed forces in the elections, Babar Yaqoob said the army was not conducting elections but rendering support to the commission. “Army will be assisting the commission by providing security and logistic support for the ballot papers.” “Elections are being held as per Elections Act, 2017; returning officers are being trained while civil judges will also be present at the polling stations,” he said and added that independent observers will be allowed access to the polling stations and returning forms but use of mobile phones is strictly prohibited inside the premises.”

He expected a higher turnout this time around; the Secretary said ECP was seeing national consensus on the matter as no party had boycotted elections. “Everyone wants the elections to be held on time,” he argued. Answering a question, he clarified that security forces are being given the same powers as in every other election.

"Security forces are being given the same powers as given in every other election," the ECP secretary clarified, adding that the army is being called in on the request of political parties.

He said that security personnel deployed at polling stations will also be responsible for reporting any discrepancies they witness during the polling.

The ECP secretary said that the army is only being involved in security arrangements and that the army is not conducting the elections.

Fateh said the electoral authority is considering Facebook’s offer to help remove bogus content from the social networking site ahead of the polls.

According to the official, Facebook had written to the commission offering help.  The ECP secretary also confirmed that the chief election commissioner has received a letter from the Facebook management. "The letter has warned the commission about fake accounts posting bogus news on the website," Yaqoob said, adding that Facebook has created a team to tackle the situation.

In a related development, the Election Commission of Pakistan has asked all Caretaker Chief Ministers to ensure that no hurdle is created in election campaign of any political party.

In a letter written to the Chief Ministers today, the ECP said that election campaign under the code of conduct is the right of every political party.

The Election Commission has announced public holiday on 25th of this month in the country on the occasion of general elections.

The notification says public holiday has been declared to enable voters to exercise their right to franchise freely and conveniently.

In another development, the Election Commission has directed Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority to issue show cause notice to television channels airing election advertisement campaign carrying indecent language.

The direction was issued at a briefing to the Election Commission by PEMRA about the use of inappropriate language in election advertisement campaign by political parties on electronic media. 

The commission directed PEMRA to take action against the channels violating electoral code of conduct. The PEMRA has also been asked to present an estimate of the expenditures of advertisement campaign of political parties on electronic media.