Islamabad: On Tuesday, the Punjab government, defence ministry, and provincial police chief informed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) that it was not possible to provide foolproof security for the upcoming general election to the provincial assembly.
They stated that assistance from law enforcement agencies, including the army, was necessary for ensuring foolproof security, but even with such assistance, they were unable to guarantee it due to the current security, law and order, and economic situation. Consequently, they urged the Election Commission not to hold elections.
The Secretary and Additional Secretary of Defence emphasized that the army’s primary responsibility was to secure the borders and the country. They explained that, due to the current situation, the army was not available for election duty and could only serve as a rapid response force rather than perform static duty.
Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja chaired three meetings of the Election Commission in response to this information, which commission members, the secretary, and other senior officials attended.
During the initial meeting, the Chief Secretary and Inspector General of the Police of Punjab provided information to the Commission about the upcoming election for the Punjab Assembly. They also discussed the law and order situation in the province, security concerns, economic challenges, and other issues.
The Inspector General emphasized that the police’s responsibilities during the election day were not limited to deployment but also included ensuring public safety and preventing criminal activities.
The official stated that in the previous 2018 elections, there were a total of 3,330 political gatherings and campaigns, and the upcoming elections would likely have even more activities. Given the current state of law and order, providing security for such events would be very challenging.
He also noted that the police had already taken action against criminals in the Kacha area, but it would take four to five months to complete the operation. Nevertheless, he expressed optimism that the situation would improve by the time of the elections.
According to the Chief Secretary, there are currently 40,000 teachers who are engaged in census duty and will also be responsible for supervising matriculation exams. Additionally, the upcoming elections are scheduled for April, which will require additional staff. Furthermore, the staff is also necessary for the wheat procurement process.
The Chief Secretary and Inspector General of Punjab stated unequivocally that given the current economic and law and order situation in the country, it would be impossible to guarantee foolproof security for the April 30 elections unless other law enforcement agencies, including the Pakistan Army, assist the police in their duties.
The Chief Secretary emphasized that the purpose of holding elections was not only to conduct them but also to ensure that they were fair and transparent. However, he also stated that given the current circumstances, it was not possible to hold elections in such a manner.
In the second meeting, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Ghulam Ali briefed the Commission on the law and order situation in the province and the challenges faced by the merged districts. Secretary of Defence Lt Gen (retd) Hamood-uz-Zaman Khan and Additional Secretary of Defence Major General Khurram Sarfraz Khan provided the Commission with an overview of the current situation in the country, the borders, and the deployment of troops. They also discussed the general law and order situation.
The officials stressed that the army’s main duties were to secure the borders and protect the country, which were their top priorities. Additionally, they noted that the current economic situation of the country also had an impact on the army’s capabilities, and it would be up to the government to decide whether to restrict the army to their primary duties or secondary duties such as election duty. They also made it clear that if the army were to be deployed for election duty, it would only be in a quick response force (QRF) mode.