KARACHI - Election Commission of Pakistan on Saturday rejected conducting by-poll in Karachi through biometric system due to technical reasons, saying all necessary measures were taken for free and fair polls in the election.  Addressing a press conference at Sindh ECP office, Election Commission of Pakistan secretary Babar Yaqoob said the provincial election commission had conveyed its suggestion for biometric system for by-poll to the ECP.

ECP Sindh member Justice (r) Roshan Essani, Joint Secretary Local Bodies and ECP, Attaur Rehman, Sindh Election Commissioner Tanvir Zaki and others were also present on the occasion.

Yaqoob said the ECP informed the parliament’s election reforms committee that they had not enough arrangements for it and any action taken in haste would be questionable. He, however, informed that it was decided that CCTV cameras would be installed and power loadshedding would not be carried out in the area during the by-poll. “Only presiding officer will be allowed to use mobile phone in the polling station and the entire election staff will reach at the polling station one day before the polling takes place. The staff would be provided with every facility.”

The ECP secretary said that 358,500 ballot papers were printed for 353,700 voters in the constituency - that has a population of more than 0.7 million. “Each ballot paper has a serial number and a special paper being used,” he said, adding Army and Rangers would be responsible for transporting ballot papers to the polling stations. He said the election commission was ensuring its constitutional role for free and fair elections in the by-poll.

“I have paid surprise visits to the NA-246 constituency and satisfied with the law and order situation there,” he said.  Yaqoob said in certain polling stations, it was observed that more booths were established in less space therefore, instructions had been conveyed to the concerned officials to look into these matters. He said that in order to ensure peace during the by-election, Rangers and presiding officers had been given powers of grade-I magistrate.  

The ECP secretary said for 213 polling stations and 769 polling booths, around 2,500 election staff would be deployed. Although, security measures would be maintained by Rangers, around 7300 policemen would also be deployed for maintaining law and order situation. “Rangers will be deployed in and outside the polling stations,” he said.

He said they had received certain complaints against the violation of code of conduct of the election campaign and suitable action would be taken against them.

“PTI has submitted a complaint regarding the ghost polling stations and a returning officer is being directed to look into the matter,” he said.  Responding to ghost polling stations claim, the returning officer said all the polling stations during 2013 were maintained and they were ready to scrutinise any complaint over it.  ECP member from Sindh Justice (r) Roshan Esaani said media had created a hype regarding the by-poll of NA-246 and therefore, strict security measures were taken to ensure safety of the people.

 “The criminals will get courage if on spot action is not taken against them. Conflicting reports are circulating and reservations are raised from different sectors over the by-poll, therefore, they have taken every action under their jurisdiction for free and free polls.

However, they are not able to fulfill illogical demands from some people.  He said the ECP secretary had not only visited the constituency but also held a meeting with the stakeholders where not only suggestions were taken from different political groups for the elections but they were also given some directions.