ISLAMABAD - Around 50,000 military troops have been assigned to guard 4,218 polling stations facing security threat while 10 million ballot papers have reached the provincial offices of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) under the army’s security for the Thursday-scheduled by-polls in 41 electoral constituencies.
The troops deployment outside the polling stations marked as highly sensitive and sensitive would start Wednesday evening, to be followed by the deployment of the army troops inside the highly sensitive polling stations during the early morning hours of Thursday, informed military insiders shared.
According to the army’s reported security plan, seven to 10 army troops would be deployed outside the security-wise sensitive polling stations and three to five military troops would be deployed inside the highly sensitive polling stations.
Generally, 10 to 15 military men would guard the highly sensitive polling stations and up to seven to 10 army personnel would be providing security to the sensitive polling stations, it is learnt.
“The troops deployment figure varies from (polling) station to station and region to region depending upon the security requirements and availability of troops,” the army officials informed.
On account of potential terror threat, the regular army troops in maximum number would guard the polling stations in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, despite that the two provinces respectively have Frontier Corps, the army’s paramilitary wing and Frontier Constabulary, the KP’s elite police wing, as well the local Police and Levies.
“The paramilitary forces cannot be simply relied upon alone in the two provinces (Balochistan and KP) that are under maximum security threat. Pakistan Army would have the leading role whereas the paramilitary forces and law enforcement agencies will provide augmenting support,” said the military sources.
Assigned central role in polls security arrangement, the Pakistan Army leads the security measures reportedly categorised under two security clusters, each one being led by the military and the respective provincial governments. The civilian armed forces including Frontier Corps and Rangers would be working under the army’s command whereas the provincial governments and the centre would supervise the functioning of Police, Frontier Constabulary and Levies Force.
In Sindh and Punjab, the Rangers would mainly be deployed along with the military troops and Police. The military command reportedly sees the security threat in KP, Balochistan and Sindh as being far greater compared to Punjab. The Punjab Government had insistently opposed engaging military for security provision in the province claiming that it was in position to effectively guard 3,861 polling stations set up in the province but the ECP dismissed this contention on the grounds that more than 1,000 polling stations have been identified as being under the security threat in Punjab that cannot be overlooked. Of the 1,021 polling stations in Punjab, the number of highly sensitive polling stations is 297 and that of the sensitive polling stations is 724.
Based on serious security threat in KP and Balochistan, the by-polls polling scheme has been revised with the identification of 882 more polling stations from the two provinces as being under the potential terror threat. Overall, the highly sensitive polling stations number has been revised from 1,657 to 1,840 while that of the number of sensitive polling stations has been revised from 1,987 to 2,686, which makes a total of 4,526 polling stations that were to be guarded by the military. However, excluding all the 308 highly sensitive polling stations of National Assembly’s constituency NA-25 in Dera Ismail Khan cum Tank where the by-polls have been postponed due to security reasons, the number of highly sensitive polling stations becomes 1,532, which implies that 4,218 polling stations would be military-guarded.
With the exclusion of the 308 polling stations and abolition of 16 polling stations, 10 in Balochistan and six in KP, due to floods-caused damages, the number of total polling stations set up in the 41 constituencies has been reduced to 7,298 from 7,622. As many as 3,861 polling stations have been set up in Punjab, KP: 1,895, Sindh: 1,184 and Balochistan: 358
Meanwhile, the 10 million ballot papers printed for over 8.6 million voters of the 41 electoral constituencies have reached the ECP Secretariat in Islamabad and provincial election commissions (PECs) in Karachi, Lahore, Quetta and Peshawar. Transported under the military security, these ballot papers would be sent to the polling stations on Thursday morning ahead of the start of polling. The ECP has directed the presiding officers to fax confirmation regarding the election arrangements’ completion, which would reportedly be sent by tonight (Wednesday night).