Islamabad - A foolproof security for candidates aspiring to contest the 2018 general election shrouds in uncertainty and the Election Commission of Pakistan has no mandate to provide them security.

“The ECP has no mandate to provide security to the contesting candidates,” ECP spokesperson Altaf Ahmed Khan told The Nation on Tuesday.

He, however, added that the ECP had asked the provincial governments to ensure the foolproof security of all the contesting candidates under article 220 of the Constitution and the provincial governments were busy in devising their contingency security plans.

The ECP has already directed provincial chief secretaries to ensure the security of returning officers (ROs) and polling staff. While district returning officers (DROs) and ROs have been appointed mostly from the lower judiciary, assistant returning officers (AROs) had been selected from the civil bureaucracy – mainly from the District Administration Group.

As per the polling scheme announced by the ECP, as many as 86,436 polling stations will be set up for the elections, including 48,667 in Punjab and 18,647 in Sindh. In Fata and K-P, 14,655 polling stations will be established and 4,467 in Balochistan.

Asked about deployment of Pakistan Army troops during the elections, the ECP spokesperson said that this issue will be decided in view of the contingency security plans.

All the political parties are seeking foolproof security during the elections and do not want the repetition of election-related violence as was witnessed during the 2013 general election.

“We want a foolproof security arrangement during the elections and equal playing field,” a senior leader of the PML-N said while speaking to The Nation, adding “We do not want the repetition of 2013 violent incidents”.

Earlier, the ECP said it was fully prepared to conduct the general election within 60 days after completion of the term of the government on May 31.

The federal and provincial governments are currently in talks with opposition parties to decide the interim governments.

In a related development, President Mamnoon Hussain is expected to announce the date for the upcoming general election soon after the ECP had suggested July 25-27 as the possible dates.

Meanwhile, the ECP data has revealed a wide difference in the number of male and female voters in the country which stands at around 8.5 million.

Based on the recently compiled data, 106 million voters are registered with the commission, of which 57.2 million (54pc) are male while only 48.7 million (46pc) are female. There are over 17 percent more male voters than the female.

The ECP in December last year initiated a campaign to fill the gender gap after it noted that it had gone up to 12.17 million. Chief Election Commissioner (retd) Justice Sardar Mohammad Raza had then remarked that the gap was largely because of the absence of national identity cards of a number of women due to socio-cultural constraints.

The gap has, nevertheless, reduced from 10.97 million where it had stood in March 2013 prior to the last general election.

An analysis of district-wise data last year had shown that Lahore, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Karachi West and Sialkot districts contributed the most to the gender gap. Among 20 districts with the largest gender gap, 17 were from Punjab, two from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and one from Sindh.