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ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has rejected the request of the ruling party; Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), to deploy Pakistan Army personnel at polling stations during local government elections in the cantonment boards, maintaining its decision to deploy police and paramilitary forces in LG polls in the CBs.

The decision has been taken following a top-level ECP huddle presided over by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, it is learnt.

The meeting reviewed the letter, written Thursday, by Chief Organiser PTI Saifullah Nyazee to CEC wherein the former had requested for the deployment of military personnel at the polling stations for LG polls in CBs.

"The past record of such elections without the security provided by the armed forces of Pakistan is not reassuring either, especially in large metropolitan cities like Karachi and Lahore- In the absence of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), avenues are open for electoral fraud and coercive methods adopted by the local political forces, ranging from fake ballots to the wrong compilation of results-it is our considered opinion that army shall be requested to assist in maintaining law and order inside and outside of the polling stations." Nyazee wrote to Raja.

LG elections in 42 CBs: CCTV cameras to be installed at 'sensitive' polling stations

A senior ECP official, requesting anonymity, said, the ECP decided to deploy police and rangers at polling stations for LG elections in CBs keeping in view "ground realities".

"The ground realities do not necessitate the urgency to deploy military personnel. Compared to general elections or LG elections in provinces, the LG elections in CBs make quite a smaller exercise. So, there is no need to deploy military troops," the source said.

Secondly, he said, the PTI moved the request, on September 2, to deploy military personnel when just 10 days were remaining in the polls, taking place on September 12.

"At this stage, when everything is finalised, it is not possible to ask military authorities to allocate personnel for security duties for LG polls in CBs. Such procedures need a few weeks, at least," the official said.

On August 31, the ECP decided that closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras would be installed only at those polling stations that were being marked as 'highly sensitive' instead of all the 1,644 polling stations comprising of 5,080 polling booths, in the LG elections to be held in 42 cantonment boards across the country on September 12.

Some 1,559 candidates are contesting the LG polls for CBs.

The electoral body decided that police as well as rangers would be deployed at the polling stations for security purposes.

However, CCTV cameras would not be installed at all the polling stations but only at those polling stations that would be categorised as highly sensitive from security point of view, the ECP decided.

The polling would continue from 8 am till 5 pm.

On July 9 this year, ECP issued the schedule for LG elections in 219 wards of 42 CBs across the country.

Of these CBs where the LG polls are scheduled, 20 are located in Punjab that have 119 wards, 11 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa having 37 wards, eight in Sindh having 54 wards and three in Balochistan having nine wards.

The 42 CBs are: Rawalpindi, Taxila, Wah, Attock, Kamra, Sanjwal, Mangla, Murree Hills, Jhelum, Kharian, Lahore, Walton, Gujranwala, Sialkot, Shorkot, Sargodha, Okara, Multan, Bahawalpur, Quetta, Zhob, Loralai, Peshawar, Nowshera, Risalpur, Cherat, Mardan, Kohat, Bannu, Dera Ismail Khan, Murree Gallis (separate from Murree Hills), Havelian, Abbottabad, Kalabagh, Hyderabad, Pannu Aqil, Faisal, Malir, Korangi, Manora, Clifton and Karachi.

ECP takes firm step towards holding LG polls

On January 30, 2020, the ECP announced to start delimitation of wards in these 42 CBs and listed March 27 last year as the date to issue the final notification regarding completion of the delimitation exercise.

However, on account of alarming spread of coronavirus across the country and issues concerning certain CBs, the LG polls in CBs that were scheduled last year, kept facing delay on one pretext or another till the ECP finally announced the polls schedule on July 9.

On April 14 this year, the ECP published the list of seven CBs where delimitation of wards for LG polls was done afresh following the reclassification of these CBs by the Defence Ministry.

These seven CBs were: Malir, Korangi Creek, Abbottabad, Kamra, Taxila, Shorkot and Bahawalpur.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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