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ISLAMABAD: Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja has sent a missive to Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah for the provision of security by Pakistan Rangers in the 20 constituencies of Punjab Assembly for upcoming by-elections—citing the “presence of militant elements” in certain political parties contesting these polls— maintaining that police would “not be only able to provide conducive environment to conduct elections in a free, fair and peaceful manner.”

“Our experience with recently conducted by-election of NA-240 Korangi-II and Sindh local government elections phase-I shows that police alone was unable to control the scale of violence due to restrictions with their numbers.

Most of the times these numerical inadequacies coupled with lack of proper training and resources prohibit timely action, thus resulting in violence spiralling out of control,” the CEC stated in his letter to the interior minister on Thursday.

“The political narrative from many sides has vitiated the atmosphere considerably causing increased polarisation, thus highly placing the incoming election at a risk premium. The presence of militant elements in certain parties has increased this risk manifolds,” the letter says.

Earlier on Monday, the interior minister had issued an office order to engage Punjab Police for the provision of security in the upcoming by-elections scheduled on July 17.

But the CEC had a different opinion. “The present atmosphere in the 20 constituencies where by-elections are scheduled—is politically charged. Certain political leaders are raising the emotions of their workers/supporters. In such a situation, police would not be only able to provide conducive environment to conduct elections in a free, fair and peaceful manner,” the CEC maintained in the letter.

In Sindh phase-I LG elections, the letter said, effective deterrent was provided by rangers when they got involved in polling stations where violence flared up, “although at times the reaction was longer then would have been required to curtail a flare-up of situation.”

According to the letter, keeping in view the law and order situation of the areas/constituencies, it is reiterated that Pakistan Rangers (Punjab) / Pakistan Rangers (Sindh) be deployed, in static mode, in sensitive four constituencies of Lahore and one each in Multan and National Assembly’s constituency NA-245 Karachi— and enhanced QRF (quick response force) for other 15 constituencies in Punjab, so that by-elections in these constituencies could be conducted peacefully, fairly and to guard against any untoward situation.

“As conduct of peaceful election is a sine-qua-non (an essential condition) of ECP’s function and provision of adequate security is the function of the federal and provincial governments, therefore, it is imperative this provision be made sufficiently to ensure a free, peaceful and transparent elections,” CEC Raja wrote in his letter to the minister.

Later, Thursday, the ECP issued a statement, saying that the electoral body acknowledged the services of police that performed its duties in the elections as per its full capabilities but other law enforcement agencies are being engaged in by-elections, along with police, keeping in view the existing law and order situation.

By-elections are being held on four PA seats of Lahore, two seats each of Jhang, Lodhran, Muzaffargarh, and one seat each of Rawalpindi, Khushab, Bhakkar, Faisalabad, Sheikhupura, Sahiwal, Multan, Bahawalnagar, Layyah and Dera Ghazi Khan.

On May 30, this year, ECP de-notified the legislative memberships of a total of 25 dissident members provincial assembly (MPAs) of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) who voted for Hamza Shahbaz, against the party policy, in the election of chief minister Punjab held in April.

In this context, three separate notifications issued by ECP de-notified 20 MPAs who were elected on general seats, three MPAs elected on reserved seats for women and two MPAs elected on reserved seats for non-Muslims.

Of the 25 de-notified legislators, 20 who elected on general seats were: Raja Sagheer Ahmed, Malik Ghulam Rasool Sangha, Saeed Akbar Khan, Muhammad Ajmal, Faisal Hayat, Mehar Aslam, Mian Khalid Mehmood, Aleem Khan, Nazir Chohan, Malik Asad, Amin Zulqarnain, Malik Nauman Langrial, Muhammad Salman, Zawar Hussain Warraich, Nazir Ahmad Khan, Fida Hussain, Zahra Batool, Sibtain Raza, Muhammad Tahir and Mohsin Atta Khosa.

The three de-notified MPAs who were elected on women-reserved seats were: Uzma Kardar, Aisha Nawaz and Sajida Yousaf.

And the two lawmakers elected on non-Muslims-reserved seats were: Ijaz Masih and Haroon Imran Gill.

The reserved seats, in accordance with Article 224 (6), are filled on the basis of priority lists provided to ECP by the respective political parties.

However, the ECP, till date, has not notified the new PTI MPAs on the reserved seats who are eligible to fill in the vacant slots despite that Lahore High Court (LHC) has ordered the electoral body to notify the related candidates.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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