52,000 cops to be deployed for security; Province’s border with KP sealed
Punjab will witness intense political activity today as the make-or-break by-elections on 20 hotly-contested provincial constituencies will take place which will decide who will become the next chief minister of the province.
The 20 seats fell vacant after the Election Commission of Pakistan “de-seated” 25 PTI dissident lawmakers on May 23 which included five lawmakers elected on reserved seats for women and minorities for voting against PML-N’s Hamza Shehbaz in the Punjab chief minister’s election.
Political pundits are expecting a tough contest between PML-N and PTI in the by-polls as a majority of the 20 defecting PTI MPAs have hitched their wagons to the PML-N.
The PTI and the PML-N have around the same number of seats in the Punjab Assembly, but if either of the parties takes a major lead in the by-polls, it can form the next government easily as the elections for the chief minister are also slated for July 22.
It is important to mention here that of all the by-elections held in Punjab from 2018 to 2021, the PML-N won a majority even when the PTI was in power. Out of the 29 national and provincial constituencies which were up for grabs in Punjab, the PML-N remained successful in 14 while the PTI won 10.
Therefore, in light of the statements and political tensions ahead of the by-polls, the government has decided to deploy Frontier Constabulary in addition to rangers.
The government has also decided to impose a ban on the movement of the armed workers of any political party in the constituencies where the by-polls are being held.
The by-elections will take place on PP-7, PP-83, PP-90, PP-97, PP-125, PP-127, PP-140, PP-158, PP-167, PP-168, PP-170, PP-202, PP-217, PP-224, PP-228, PP-237, PP-272, PP-273, PP-282 Layyah, and PP-288.
The Punjab Assembly has a total of 371 members, of which 20 seats are vacant at the moment, bringing the total number of MPAs in the Punjab Assembly down to 351.
The ruling PML-N has 163 members and PPP 7, Rah-e-Haq 1, independent 4 are its supporters. On the other hand PTI has 163 and PML-Q 10.
In the house, there are five independents, of which Chaudhry Nisar, the former interior minister, is unlikely to vote. While the PPP has 7 MPAs, PML-Q has 10, and the Rah-e-Haq party has one.
Meanwhile, over 52,000 police personnel in 14 districts of Punjab will be deployed for by-elections in 20 provincial constituencies of Punjab. A provincial government spokesperson said that security arrangements have been finalized at over 3100 polling stations for the elections scheduled for today.
“The government has imposed ban over carrying and exhibition of arms and remove election camps and banners of opponents,” spokesperson said.
“The government will act indiscriminately against people involved in such incidents,” he said. “The law enforcement personnel will be on alert to tackle any untoward situation,” he added.
In four constituencies of Lahore over 9,000 officers and other personnel will be posted for election security, police chief said.
“Safe City cameras will help in monitoring the situation,” police chief said. “The department has set up control rooms at the Central Police Office and in districts,” he said.
“The police will ensure safe delivery of the electoral material and ballot papers at any cost,” I.G. said. “Police department will extend all possible assistance to the election commission and those involved in lawlessness will be taken to task,” he said.
The personnel of the Anti-riot Force and the Elite Force will remain on alert. “Surety bonds have been taken from the candidates of all parties,” he added.
“Any brawl or aerial firing will not be allowed after announcement of election results,” I.G. said. He has directed the police officials to ensure enforcement of the election code of conduct at any cost.
Meanwhile, in order to maintain law and order situation during the by-polls, the Punjab government on Saturday sealed the links connecting the province to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by placing a container on it.
Sources said that the provincial government had received a threat alert from the intelligence agencies following which it took the decision.
As soon as the border was sealed, long queues of vehicles waiting to get to the other side of the border sprung up.
Sources further said that if the Election Commission of Pakistan permitted, passenger buses, patients and residents of the katcha area could be allowed to cross the bridge since there was lot of resentment in locals against the Punjab government’s decision.