Polls in Punjab ‘difficult task’ until operation against militants is over


Inspector General tells ECP….

Punjab Inspector General Dr Usman Anwar informed the Election Commission of Pakistan on Wednesday that it would be a “difficult task” to hold elections in the province until a police operation against militants, expected to be completed in four to five months, was over.

It is pertinent to mention that the Punjab police chief’s remarks come a day after Khyber Pakhtunkhwa IG Moazzam Jah Ansari informed the electoral watchdog that terrorism during the upcoming provincial polls and by-elections for the National Assembly could not be ruled out.

The handout issued by the ECP said that a meeting was convened to give a briefing on the Punjab elections and the upcoming NA by-elections.

During the meeting, the Punjab IG said that a police operation was under way in some districts and in South Punjab’s riverine areas which would be completed in four to five months. He said it would be a “difficult task” to hold the provincial assembly elections till the operation was completed.

He also highlighted that terrorism was on the rise in the province, adding that 213 at tempted attacks had been thwarted since December on the basis of intelligence reports.

IG Anwar said there were reports of terrorist incidents in “almost all Punjab districts”. He highlighted that Lahore, Sheikhupura, Sahiwal, Gujranwala, Rawalpindi, Multan, Bahawalpur and Dera Ghazi Khan districts were among the top “hotspots” for terrorist activity.

He said that there were various terrorist groups in Bhakkar, Mianwali and Dera Ghazi Khan.

IG Anwar said that 412,854 police personnel were required to ensure peaceful elections in the province while the force comprised only 115,000 officials. He said 300,000 additional officials would be needed to ensure peaceful polls.

The IG said that the services of the Pakistan Army and Rangers would be required to compensate for this shortcoming, while stressing the need for their static deployment.

During the meeting, Punjab Chief Secretary Abdullah Khan Sumbal also pointed out that there was a “serious terrorism threat” in the province.

He assured the meeting that transparency would be ensured in the upcoming polls. Sumbal said that the provincial government had initiated work regarding the NA by-elections, preparation of a security plan and installation of CCTV cameras in all sensitive polling stations.

He added that a control room would also be established in each district during the elections. He suggested that the ECP carry out NA by-elections and the Punjab Assembly polls on the same day.

He explained that if this was not done, the expenses would double. He further said that in such a scenario, law enforcement agencies would also not be able to provide foolproof security.