January 24, 2024
ISLAMABAD – With less than three weeks remaining for the upcoming polls, Pakistan has recently seen an uptick in terrorism. Earlier this month, an independent candidate was killed in a gun attack in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s North Waziristan.
According to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office, interim Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar presided over a federal cabinet meeting today in Islamabad wherein the government “approved the deployment of Pakistan Army and civil armed forces troops for the peaceful conduct of general elections” on the recommendation of the interior ministry.
The press release said the security personnel will perform duties at sensitive constituencies and polling stations, as well as act as a rapid response force.
The fresh measure came a few days after PM Kakar constituted a seven-member committee for the smooth conduct of the upcoming elections as well as overseeing their security arrangements.
A day earlier, interim Information Minister Murtaza Solangi said threat alerts had nothing to do with polls and asserted that general elections would be held on Feb 8.
“In the past, general elections were successfully conducted despite security issues in the country […] there is no problem in conducting the upcoming February 8 general elections as well,” he had said.
Acknowledging the presence of threats in various parts of the country, top government and security officials had assured the ECP last week of their readiness to hold general elections.
Reviewing preparations for the Feb 8 polls, with a focus on the law and order situation, the meeting chaired by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja was given assurances that all arrangements were in place to hold elections and deal with “any kind of situation”.
Section 144 imposed in Punjab after reports of threats
Meanwhile, the Punjab government has imposed Section 144 across the province till Feb 12 after reports on “threats to the law and order situation” during the elections emerged.
Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) empowers the district administration to issue orders in the public interest that may place a ban on an activity for a specific period of time.
In a notification dated Jan 22 — a copy of which is available with Dawn.com — Punjab Home Department Secretary Shakeel Ahmed said it was reported that “there exist threat to law and order situation and public peace” in the province during the Feb 8 polls.
“In the wake of these elections, a large number of political gatherings, rallies, corner meetings are likely to be held by the contesting candidates and political parties for 141 and 297 seats of National and provincial assembly, respectively, all over Punjab which may serve as soft targets for any desperate act by terrorists and miscreants,” he stated.
Further, he highlighted that considering historical precedents, the likelihood of conflicts between competing candidates and opposing political parties or groups in various regions could not be ruled out.
“The ensuing security milieu demands extraordinary vigilance and extensive security Measures to pre-empt any untoward incident, in the larger interest of internal security,” the notification added.
Shakeel further stated that under the directions, there would be a ban on displaying weapons including licensed ones, except those by law enforcement agencies. All types of firing and violation of any clause of the Election Commission of Pakistan’s code of conduct would also be prohibited.