ISLAMABAD  - The Election Commission of Pakistan on Monday gave a detailed briefing to the Senate Standing Committee on Interior on security arrangements for the July 25 general election.

ECP Secretary Babar Yaqoob gave a briefing to the committee that was held under the chair of Senator Rehman Malik. Issues including the installation of CCTV cameras at polling stations, deputing policemen and armed forces personnel and motivation campaigns on urging voters to vote etc came under discussion.

The committee raised questions regarding availability, functioning and installation of CCTV cameras at 20,000 polling stations as proposed by ECP. The committee also decided to seek responses from chief secretaries of provinces on the progress on the matter.

Members of the committee suggested providing proper food and transport facility to policemen and other staff who will be on duty on the election day. The meeting was told that there are 85,000 polling stations and, if 4 to 5 policemen were required per station, the number amounts to at least 300,000 policemen on the election day. It was told that no final decision has been taken yet about the deployment of armed forces personnel. The matter of safety of ballot papers and polling staff was also discussed.

Regarding the attack on the interior minister, the committee was told by the secretary interior that the investigation was underway and results would be shared with the committee.

The committee expressed concerns about the threat assessment list shared with it and called for its review. Chairman Rehman Malik strongly condemned recent wave of terrorist attacks on Pakistan Army, personnel of law enforcement agencies (LEAs) and police in Balochistan wherein a few days ago army Colonel Sohail Abid embraced martyrdom.

He said that free, fair and secure elections should be the dream of every Pakistani and ensure security on the polling day and polling stations was their foremost responsibility as some anti-Pakistan elements could target politicians and their people on the election day to sabotage the election process.

Malik asked that what was  the criteria to identify the security risks to which the secretary ECP answered that based on intelligence information some polling stations were marked as at risk. He said that transportation of the ballot papers were made highly secured as the pictures before dispatching the ballot papers shall be sent online to the election commissioner who would later verify that no change was done to any ballot box. The secretary ECP informed the committee that he thought that elections could be sabotaged for which they were taking necessary measures to ensure free and fair elections.

The chair said that he would be writing a letter to all political parties of the country to attend the meeting of ECP on upcoming elections and two members of the committee would also be attending the same meeting to give input of this committee.  

He said that if the ECP felt the need of helicopter to monitor far-plunged areas, the committee would request the authorities for the provision of helicopters saying that the committee would be fully assisting the election commission during the whole process of elections. He announced the committee will be visiting each provincial headquarters of the ECP after June 15.

Senator Javed Abbasi expressed serious reservations over the nomination of controversial caretaker Chief Minister of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa saying that there was news of bribery that the nominated caretaker CM had paid a heavy amount to PTI. He requested the ECP to take serious notice of nomination of the caretaker chief minister and interfere in the matter.

Rehman Malik while expressing great concerns over the news asked the ECP to initiate an inquiry into the matter as it is a matter of great concerns and worrisome. Senator Azam Khan Swati said that after bringing into the notice of PTI chief Imran Khan the nomination of the controversial caretaker chief minister was suspended.

The committee was informed that the nominated caretaker chief minister is the brother of a senator of PTI so the chances of rigging shall be increased in PTI if he is brought as the caretaker chief minister. The committee directed the ECP to hold an inquiry into the matter and inform it soon.

Regarding the attack on Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, the Additional IGP Punjab told the committee that the investigation was underway and results would be shared with the committee soon after they were finalized. He said some five suspects were arrested who belonged to a religious-political party, however, he can give the in-camera briefing in this regard.

Senator Malik said that negligence at the part of those security officials who were deputed on minister’s security should be identified and addressed as it was a matter of great concerns that the Minister of Interior of the country is not safe and secure.

While taking serious notice of the leaking of video statement of the attacker, Senator Malik directed the additional IGP Punjab to immediately suspend the officers who were investigating the culprit but recorded the video and was made public and viral within 15 minutes putting the life of minister further in danger. He said those who were responsible for the recording and spreading of the said video should be identified within next 48 hours and should be dealt under the law and to be suspended immediately.  The committee expressed dissatisfaction over the threat assessment list saying that many politicians who were even not under threat were enjoying security while those genuine who were under serious security threats were deprived of security.

The committee chairman also formed a committee headed by Senator Javed Abbasi with its members Senator Attiq Sheikh and Azam Khan Muakhel to review the list and put those names in the list who were earlier targeted. Members of the committee expressed great concerns over the withdrawal of security from Senator Abdul Ghafoor Haideri who had escaped serious suicide attacks in the past and asked the secretary interior to immediately depute security for his protection.