For all the public rhetoric opposing the use of the security apparatus in politics, behind the scenes political parties continue to do exactly that.
In the most recent case, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government in Punjab has tasked the Special Branch of Punjab police to conduct a political survey of the party’s standing at the local level in all constituencies in the province, The Express Tribune has learnt.
The exercise is effectively an internal audit of the party, and a way to gauge the performance and popularity of its own legislators.
Ironically, the move comes just days after provincial Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said that the political cells of the Special Branch (SB) and Intelligence Bureau (IB) should be closed down just like the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had closed its political cell.
The Special Branch is basically the intelligence arm of the Punjab police. It is tasked with gathering information on anti-state and sectarian activities in the province, as well as keeping an eye on the movement of foreigners in the province. It prepares a ‘daily situation report’ (DSR) on security threats to the province at the smallest levels – a report which is compiled and used as a crucial source of information by law-enforcers.
However, with general elections in the air, the Punjab government has other ideas.
According to sources, the provincial headquarters of the Special Branch, at the behest of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, will now compile comprehensive constituency-wise details of members of the national and provincial assemblies belonging to the PML-N.
The effort is a part of the Punjab government’s bid to understand its current position in the province as well as the reputation and popularity of PML-N lawmakers amongst the general public across the Province, The Express Tribune has learnt.
Field offices of the Special Branch have been provided with a one-page form issued by the headquarters. The field officers are to compile all details, including general reputation, popularity and current position of members of national and provincial assemblies (MNAs and MPAs), public integration and even the ratio of increase or decrease of popularity in the constituency of the respective legislator.
In addition, it is interesting that particulars of ‘substitute candidates’, for cases where the position of current legislators of PML-N is considered to be weak, have also been sought. Substitute candidates are being identified to ascertain which contenders would be best placed to defeat particular political opponents that pose the biggest threat to the party in the upcoming elections.
When contacted on the matter, Law Minister Rana Sanaullah told The Express Tribune that no such exercise had been launched using the Special Branch. He said that the party itself had has a better understanding of the reputation and popularity of their legislators as well as the ground realities of the constituencies across the province – and hence did not need the Special Branch’s input.
He said that the party’s information would be more credible than that of the Special Branch.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 22nd, 2012.