The Pakistan Army has begun the deployment of as many as 70,000 troops across the country as part of an elaborate security plan to ensure free, fair and peaceful parliamentary polls on May 11.
The chief military spokesperson told reporters in Rawalpindi on Thursday that troops were being deployed to aid civil authorities under Article 245 of the Constitution.
Director General of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asim Saleem Bajwa said the army would also spare 50 helicopters for surveillance on Election Day to help the government maintain law and order in sensitive areas.
Many political parties have demanded the deployment of troops at sensitive polling stations across the country.
As elections draw near, there is an unprecedented surge in terrorist attacks targeting secular political parties, including the Pakistan Peoples Party, the Awami National Party and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, who are all on the hit-list of the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.
Close to 60 people have been killed over the past few weeks in election related attacks.
The majority of the attacks have taken place in Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa, Balochistan and the country’s financial hub, Karachi.
General Bajwa said the army had devised a comprehensive security plan in view of an assessment of threats prepared by intelligence agencies.
He added that troops would remain deployed till the completion of electoral process, and were already guarding the printing presses where ballot papers were being printed.
Replying to a question, the DG ISPR said the deployment of troops in Balochistan would be completed by Thursday night, while deployment in Punjab and Sindh would begin today (Friday).
He said troops had already been deployed in Peshawar, while deployment in the rest of K-P would be completed during the weekend.
He said the troops would be mobilised by helicopters as well as by roads for election related duties.
Bajwa said the police and other civil law enforcing agencies would guard polling stations, while the Quick Response Force of the Pakistan Army would remain on standby to pre-empt any untoward incident.
A security plan had also been finalised to facilitate internally displaced persons to cast their votes on May 11, he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 3rd, 2013.