LAHORE - A state of red-alert has been declared in the Punjab province amid fears of violence during the general elections 2018 to be held countrywide on Wednesday (today).
Hundreds of thousands of military personnel and police have already been deployed across the province to ensure free, fair, and transparent elections. Tens of thousands of volunteers are also supporting the Election Commission of Pakistan.
Security agencies were put on high-alert across the country as the election campaign concluded late Monday. More than 180 people died, including three candidates, in a series of suicide attacks targeting election campaign in DI Khan, Peshawar, and Mastung. Another 200 people were also injured in bomb attacks.
Tensions are particularly high in big cities where political temperature is rising amid cut-throat competition in various constituencies.
Police officials fear violence could flare up on the day of polling. Therefore, heavy police contingents will be deployed on important roads and around the polling stations to keep the situation under control.
Last week, the provincial governments were directed to beef up security for the leading politicians and election candidates who face threats from the militants.
An official of the provincial Counter-terrorism Department said that there was no “specific” security threat but intelligence inputs suggest that terrorists were planning suicide attacks to target political leaders, gatherings and election offices.
Officials state that military personnel will be deployed inside the polling stations to guard election staff, ballot boxes and to monitor the polls process.
On Tuesday, ballot boxes were seen being transported to the polling stations under the supervision of the Pakistan Army.
Earlier, the caretaker government 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.
At least 371,000 troops are engaged to guard more than 85,000 polling stations across the country in addition to police, volunteers and other government employees.
Authorities state that more than 17,000 polling stations have been declared as “sensitive” throughout the country where extraordinary security measures would be in place.
In Punjab, more than 150,000 police and around 120,000 special police volunteers will also assist the national Election Commission on the polling day.
A police official said that at least 10,000 Police Razakars would be deployed in Lahore 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. Similarly, police on gun-fitted vehicles and motorcycle-squads will continue armed patrolling around the polling stations throughout the day.
Lahore Capital City Police Officer BA Nasir said that at least 35,000 police including 25 SPs, 50 DSPs, and more than 200 Inspectors would be deployed all over the metropolis on the polling day.
All polling stations will be monitored through CCTV cameras and aerial surveillance, he said.
The city police chief also warned that the violators of the code of conduct devised by the Election Commission would be sent to jails.
“No political leader or worker will be allowed to take law into their hands. Policemen will be bound to display security cards on their uniforms on polling day,” a police spokesman said.
According to Lahore DIG (Operations) Shahzad Akbar the police would also implement the post-election strategy more effectively to counter the violence following election results. The police last night intensified armed patrolling on all major City roads.
The patrolling units including Dolphin Squads, Police Response Units and Quick Response Force would continue armed patrolling on all major roads throughout the day on elections day.
There are more than 3,673 polling stations with 1,737 polling buildings in Lahore.
Each PRU vehicle will patrol around 10 polling buildings while each Dolphins Squad will patrol around five polling buildings,” the spokesman said.