ISLAMABAD - The Election Commission of Pakistan has officially requested the defence and interior ministries for the provision of security from Pakistan Army and Frontier Corps during the door-to-door verification exercise kicking off earlier next month.

It has also called a consultative meeting on the coming Thursday to discuss the delimitation of constituencies in Karachi. The meeting’s underline agenda would be to address the concerns of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) regarding constituencies’ delimitation in Karachi, according to ECP sources  The commission announced on Friday that it had sent letters to Asif Yasin Malik Secretary Defence and Khawaja Siddique Akbar Secretary Interior for involving the military and paramilitary troops in providing security to the ECP personnel. (The FC is under the administrative control of the Ministry of Interior).

Sources in the electoral body said, the Provincial Election Commissions (PECs) of Sindh and Balochistan would contact the military officials concerned earlier next week following the formal request made at the ministerial level by the ECP.

Subsequently, corresponding requests would be sent- from the Provincial Election Commissioner Sindh Sonu Khan Baloch and PEC Balochistan Sultan Bayazeed- respectively to the Corps Commander Karachi Lieutenant General Ejaz Chaudhry, Inspector General FC Balochistan Major General Obaidullah Khattak and Corps Commander Quetta Lieutenant General Alam Khattak. The decision to engage FC in door-to-door verification drive along side the military is linked to the volatile security situation in the city. 

“The security situation in Karachi deteriorates anytime and often the Rangers are called to maintain law and order. Considering this, the Rangers are not being engaged during verification exercise while the FC and army are to be relied upon,” the officials said adding that the military troops alone could not be deployed in huge number ranging in thousands during voters verification and the FC was also being called

The commission is to engage 18,000 personnel for door-to-door verification exercise, which brings the required number of military, FC troops, at the same number (18,000), since the ECP reportedly seeks the deployment of one military man for the protection of each ECP staffer.

Following a top-level meeting at the ECP on Thursday, the commission had announced launching preparations for door-to-door voters verification and delimitation of constituencies in Karachi from December 17. Both the exercises would be conducted simultaneously in pursuance of the Supreme Courts’ separate orders on voters’ verifications and constituencies’ delimitation in Karachi.

In “Verification of Voters in Karachi” case, the SC, on this month’s fifth, had ruled, “The Election Commission of Pakistan is directed to carry out proper and complete door-to-door verification in Karachi so as to ensure that no voter is disenfranchised or dislocated and all other discrepancies are rectified as early as possible.” The court order had also provided for conducting the voters verification with the help of Pakistan Army and FC while the Chief Election Commissioner Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim had insisted in a recent conversation with this journalist that the court had not ordered but suggested to the ECP for involving military, FC or Rangers.

 “In view of the peculiar security situation in Karachi highlighted herein such verification must be carried out by the Election Commission with the help and assistance of Pakistan Army and the FC,” the court ordered stated.

On September 13, 2011, the SC Karachi Registry had stated in its order on “Law and Order Situation in Karachi” case, “ avoid political polarisation and to break the cycle of ethnic strife and turf war, boundaries of administrative units like police stations, revenue estates, ought to be altered so that the members of different communities may live together in peace and harmony, instead of allowing various groups to claim that particular areas belong to them and declaring certain areas as no-go areas under their fearful influence. Subsequently thereto, on similar considerations, in view of relevant laws, delimitation of different constituencies has also to be undertaken with the same object and purpose, particularly to make Karachi... a peaceful city... The Election Commission of Pakistan may also initiate the process on its own in this behalf...”

Upon receiving assurances from Syed Sher Afgan, the Director General (Elections) at ECP for delimiting electoral constituencies in Karachi, the SC On November 28, 2012, stated, “He (Sher Afgan) assured that now the task of delimitation of different constituencies in Karachi has been taken up by the Election Commission of Pakistan with the Government of Sindh, and, for this purpose, from today onward, he is going to hold three meetings with the concerned officials of the Government of Sindh, particularly, the chief secretary, Government of Sindh to make substantial progress in this regard. He further assured that compliance of observations regarding delimitation of constituencies will be done/ completed in its letter and spirit within the shortest possible time, after following due procedure and taking on board all the stakeholders, and such comprehensive report will be submitted for the perusal of this court.”

Regarding the upcoming meeting on Thursday, the ECP said, it sent letters to political parties asking them to nominate ‘not more than two’ representatives to attend the meeting. The purpose of the meeting is to take onboard the political parties on the delimitation issue. All the political parties except MQM support delimitation while the latter strongly opposes it fearing a setback to its vote bank as result of the delimitation of constituencies in Karachi.