LAHORE - Pakistan Army, police and other law enforcement agencies have mounted one of the biggest security operations across the country as the nation prepares for key vote to be held on July 25.
Military personnel will be deployed inside the polling stations to guard election staff, ballot boxes, and to monitor the process of free, fair and transparent polls. Also, ballot boxes will be transported to and from the polling station under the supervision of Pakistan Army.
The caretaker government this week held several high-level meetings, both at the Federal and provincial level, to discuss and finalise the security arrangements. Officers from the Pakistan Army, Election Commission of Pakistan, police, and district administration attended the parleys and approved the security strategy.
Officials say at least 371,000 troops are being engaged to guard more than 85,000 polling stations in addition to police and hundreds of thousands of volunteers.
More than 150,000 police and around 120,000 special police volunteers will also assist the national Election Commission in the Punjab province on the polling day.
In Lahore alone, at least 10,000 Police Razakars will be deployed on election duties besides thousands of policemen. No less than 300 polling stations are declared as “most sensitive” in the provincial capital. Police and other law-enforcement agencies will remain on high-alert outside the polling stations to maintain peace.
imilarly, police on gun-fitted vehicles and motorcycle-squads will continue patrolling around the polling stations throughout the day.
A provincial official on Friday told The Nation that unprecedented security measures were being taken to ensure peaceful polling across the country despite serious terror threats.
“We are going to implement a comprehensive security plan with massive deployment of force on the polling day. We are fully prepared for the voting,” the official said, seeking anonymity.
He said that the authorities, on the polling day, would implement the standard operating procedure devised for the by-polls in Lahore’s NA 120 last year. “At least six military personnel will be deployed inside each polling station. Police, volunteers, and other law-enforcement agencies will also help government ensure peaceful polls.
The provincial governments are directed to beef up security for the leading politicians and election candidates who face threats from militants. Police security has also been heightened for rallies, processions and public meeting.
On the other hand, police officials fear violence could flare up on the day of
polling amid cut-throat competition in various constituencies. Therefore, heavy police contingents will be deployed on important roads and around the polling stations to keep the situation under control.
A source in the Counterterrorism Department said that there were no “specific” security threats but intelligence inputs suggest that the terrorists were planning suicide attacks to target political leaders, rallies and election offices.
The interim government has been struggling to maintain peace and law and order on the polling day. The latest security measures come just days after more than 180 people died and over 200 others wounded in a series of terror attacks in Peshawar, Bannu, and Mastung districts. Two election candidates were among those died in the suicide blasts.
Official sources state that heavy contingents of Pak Army would be deployed around the sensitive polling stations on the polling day.
The local administration has also been directed to ensure installation of CCTV cameras in and around all the sensitive polling stations in the provincial capital to keep a vigilant eye on the miscreants and violators of law.
An official said the provincial police “will remain neutral and impartial” during the general elections.
He said that the police would take prompt action against violators of the code of conduct devised by the Election Commission of Pakistan.
“Nobody, including candidate, will be allowed to move with private bodyguards in the premises of polling stations. There will be complete ban on display of firearms,” the official said. “Those found involved in aerial firing will be sent to jails immediately.”
Earlier, Punjab’s central police office directed the field officers to arrange boarding and lodging of the police personnel who will be deployed on security duties in various districts. On the orders of the provincial police officer, the Police Department had arranged one week training for the policemen personnel across the province.
According to a police spokesman, the training session was planned to build capacity of the police officials to counter emergency situation on Election Day. During the session, the policemen were given training about protection of ballot boxes and security of the Returning Officers and VIPs. First-Aid, Fire Fighting, Command Skills, Unarmed Combat emergency situation handling and coordination with other law enforcement agencies were also part of the training session.
A Lahore police official said that the police would take strict action against the violators irrespective of their status and political affiliation.
“The field officers are strictly directed to focus on security and observe neutrality,” he said. “Nobody will be allowed to create unrest. The troublemakers will be taken to task.”
Caretaker Prime Minister Nasir-ul-Mulk on Thursday directed the local administration to ensure security of the political leadership and the public as well.
He also called for a close liaison with political parties to ensure strict compliance of the code of conduct and the security protocols set for the general elections.
He was presiding over a meeting at Punjab Governor’s House to review the law and order situation and arrangements to ensure peace and security during the elections.