KARACHI: Pakistan army has taken over the security of around 1,278 ‘highly sensitive’ polling stations across the city on Friday, following the Chief Election Commissioner’s letter expressing reservations over ‘inadequate’ security arrangements.
Army’s Karachi spokesperson, Major Waheen Bukhari, told The Express Tribune that the deployment was completed following the orders received from the Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
Major Bukhari, who had just supervised the troops deployment at Abdullah Government College for Women and Pakistan Shipowner’s College located in North Nazimabad near Kati Pahari, explained that under the previous plan, army contingents were to remain on standby.
“In the modified plan, however, the army will be responsible for the overall security of highly sensitive polling stations with troops deployed within the premises – except for the specific area where the actual polling process will take place.” Meanwhile, the police and Rangers personnel will be responsible for the polling process’s security.
Major Bukhari said that in cases where ‘elements’ try to impede the polling process, the presiding officers who have the magisterial powers may call the army without delay to ensure that the election was free and fair.
He added that these deployments will be solely for the purpose of providing assistance in security duties for elections as envisaged under article 245 of the Constitution.
Earlier on Friday, Jamaat-e-Islami’s candidates for the National and Sindh assemblies had arranged a sit-in in front of the provincial election commission office. They accused the election commission of favouring the Muttahida Qaumi Movement by not deploying army personnel at polling stations.
A day earlier, on separate petitions seeking Sindh High Court’s directions to deploy the army personnel inside and outside the polling stations, the law officer of the election commission stated before a two-member bench that that the ECP had already identified that most sensitive and sensitive polling stations. He had stated that in most sensitive areas, security measures had been taken and the law enforcing agencies will be only a call away.
The bench observed on Thursday that the maintenance of order at the polling station is the responsibility of the presiding officer. “Any person who enters the polling station and is not authorised, he or she can be arrested without warrant by the police officer,” said Chief Justice Musheer Alam. “In case of any difficulty experienced by the presiding officer, the armed personnel may be called without delay to ensure that the election is free and fair as mandated under Article 218 of the Constitution.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 11th, 2013.