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PESHAWAR: The KP cabinet has reiterated its commitment to provide a level playing field to all political parties and asked them to follow the standard operating procedures (SOPs) during their election campaigns.

Besides the directives of the Election Commission of Pakistan, these SOPs included holding large political gatherings in designated areas notified by the provincial government during daylight to ensure efficient security and safety of the participants.

The cabinet met under the chairmanship of the caretaker Chief Minister Arshad Hussain Shah finalised preparations for the upcoming general elections in light of the directives of the ECP reiterating that every effort will be made to ensure free and fair elections in the province.

The chief minister said that all resources have been mobilized for the purpose and every effort is being made to ensure transparency and efficient utilisation of the taxpayers’ money.

The cabinet was briefed in detail about the preparations for the upcoming general elections, including availability and placement of human resources, mapping of missing facilities, availability and placement of IT staff and equipment, provision of ramps at polling stations to facilitate persons with disabilities, rationalization of sensitive and most sensitive polling stations, security arrangements, needs of CCTV cameras, transport arrangements for polling staff & equipment, security plan, SOPs for political gatherings, identification of spots in every district for political gatherings.

The upcoming general elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will be held for 55 National Assembly constituencies and 145 Provincial Assembly seats for which 15,737 polling stations will be set up across the province, out of which 4843 will be for men and 4285 for female voters.

The cabinet was informed that 4812 polling stations have been identified as the most sensitive, whereas 6581 have been identified as sensitive polling stations. Similarly, 1919 polling stations fall in snowbound areas.

Statistics made available by the Election Commission of Pakistan indicated that 54.54% of the voters are men whereas 45.46% of the registered voters are female.

It was informed that 8 detailed sessions have already been held by the chief minister and chief secretary to work out the arrangements and preparations for the upcoming general elections in addition to notifying gathering spaces in every tehsil of the province and permitting 100 government spaces for holding large political gatherings.

As for the security arrangements, it was informed that additional security personnel will also be mobilized from the Population Welfare, Excise, Forest and Tourism departments to meet the shortage of security personnel.

Similarly, an emergency plan has also been prepared which will be notified by the Health department soon. It was also informed that as many as 11,668 CCTV cameras are required to be installed inside and outside the polling stations.

The cabinet was informed that 1280 IT experts have been identified and committed to ensuring free and fair elections.

Similarly, security guidelines have been placed for political gatherings which include guidelines for corner and public meetings, identification of venues, time observance, use of loudspeakers, hate and defamatory speech, affixing of promotional materials, and security of political leadership as per the directives of Election Commission, local administration and law enforcement agencies.

As these preparations will require the appropriation of funds and procurement, the chief minister stressed ensuring transparency in the processes and efficient utilisation of available resources.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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