LAHORE - Police will provide bodyguards to candidates who are facing serious security threats, officials said yesterday.

Extraordinary security measures are being adopted amid growing concerns over rising political violence and possible clashes between the supporters of rival parties, particularly the PML-N and the PTI.

A Punjab police spokeswoman yesterday said the decision to provide police guards to UC candidates was taken during the Regional Police Officers’ conference held at the central police office. The meeting was summoned to review security arrangements for the Local Bodies elections.

Punjab Inspector General Police Mushtaq Ahmed Sukhera presided over the meeting while all the RPOs and DPOs attended the conference through video link.

Polling in 12 districts of the province is scheduled on Sunday. In the first phase, elections will take place in Lahore, Kasur, Nankana Sahib, Gujrat, Okara, Pakpattan, Chakwal, Bhakkar, Lodhran, Faisalabad, Vehari, and Bahwalnagar districts.

According to the spokesperson, the police “will remain neutral and impartial” during the elections. “The code of conduct devised by the Election Commission of Pakistan will be implemented in true letter and spirit”.

Any candidate will not be allowed to move with private guards during the elections.

The field officers are directed to observe zero tolerance policy against display of weapons, private bodyguards, and aerial firing. The provincial government has strictly banned display of weapons and aerial firing but the police are unable to check the practice during the ongoing election campaign.

“It was also decided that the candidates facing serious security threats could be provided police security guards on temporary basis,” the spokeswoman said.

More than 100,000 policemen will be deployed on security duties at 16,326 polling stations of 12 districts.

At least 50 companies of Pakistan Army and Punjab Rangers will help civil administration maintain law and order during polling since the government has sent a formal request to the authorities concerned in this regard.

The provincial police chief has also directed the field officers to arrange the boarding and lodging of the police personnel who will be deployed on security duties in their respective districts.

Security experts believe that violence is likely to increase in the days ahead as Local Bodies’ election campaign enters final stage.