ECP’s timely assurance

IN the backdrop of debate raging in national as well as social media over what is being dubbed as ‘unprecedented’ powers granted by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to the Army on the polling day, Secretary of the Commission Babar Yaqoob, while talking to newsmen in Islamabad on Thursday, held out an assurance that personnel of armed forces would be there for security purposes and they will have nothing to do with the conduct of elections. He added that security forces are being given powers as in every other election.
There is no denying the fact that a record number of troops are being deployed for election duty but as far as their role is concerned Director-General ISPR amply clarified it in a recent media briefing on the subject. Elections are being held in the backdrop of terrorist threat as highlighted by the assassination of ANP candidate in Peshawar and warning issued by NACTA of threat to the life of several political leaders. There have also been reports that the enemy might try to spoil or undermine the electoral process by way of creating law and order situation. Otherwise too, there are always chances of flare up of trouble or dispute when conflicting interests in a highly polarised society compete for power. Numerous types of local rivalries are also involved that could also lead to some an unpleasant situation. In this backdrop, there is every justification to make foolproof arrangements for security both within and outside the polling stations. Election Commission of Pakistan has no manpower of its own and therefore personnel of armed forces, police, judiciary and different public sector organisations are deputed for the smooth conduct of elections. Troops deployed at polling stations would only observe the polling process, take care of security and pinpoint any wrongdoing to the election staff. There is also no harm if they are given magisterial powers to take on the spot action against violators of the law and the election code. Local and international media and election observers would also be there to observe and monitor the entire process including the role of the troops. CCTV cameras would also be installed at 18,000 polling stations, which would surely record any malpractice or irregularity by anyone. The ECP should however listen to Senators who demanded during a debate in the upper house to provide level playing field to all contesting parties and candidates.

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