Anticipating trouble during the by-polls scheduled on the hot NA-246 seat on April 23, the law enforcers demanded on Tuesday the installation of a biometric system for voting and security cameras at all sensitive polling stations.
However, the provincial election commission pointed out that it is not the Ranger's job to demand biometric voting in the elections. "It is the job of the election commission," said provincial election commissioner Tanveer Zaki, who admitted he was not aware that the Rangers have made such a demand. "We have not received a copy of the letter therefore I cannot comment on it," he said, promising that the election commission will respond once they have reviewed the contents of the letter.
According to the Pakistan Rangers, Sindh, spokesperson, the paramilitary force has written a letter to the Sindh home department to take extraordinary steps to maintain a peaceful environment on the day of the elections. The demand for biometric voting has been made earlier by political parties, such as the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, but it was the first time that the law enforcement agencies made such a demand.
The paramilitary force wrote to the home department that monitoring materials are needed to be installed in polling stations if the authorities want to ensure free, fair and transparent elections, said the Rangers spokesperson.
"We have demanded a total of 1,037 closed-circuit television cameras for all the 769 sensitive polling booths," said a Rangers spokesperson. "Of these 213 will be used in polling stations and 65 will be used for all sensitive buildings."
The spokesperson added that since the number of sensitive polling booths is so high, biometric system must be used for voting at these locations. If that is not possible, the government should at least install the system at the 372 female booths.
On Monday, the Rangers also announced an emergency helpline, 1101, for residents to inform them of any untoward incidents on the day of the by-polls. "Rangers director-general Major General Bilal Akbar strictly directed the troops to ensure that the code of conduct is followed by all candidates and supporters," said the spokesperson, adding that strict action can be taken against the violators. The paramilitary troops have already chalked out a comprehensive security plan.
Meanwhile, Sindh IG Ghulam Haider Jamali has also prepared a security plan for the NA-246 by-elections. According to a Sindh Police press release, West Zone DIG Feroz Shah has prepared a security plan in which more than 5,500 policemen, including five SSPs, nine DSPs and 18 SHOs and inspectors will be deployed. The police have identified 55 buildings for rooftop deployment. Armoured personnel carriers and bulletproof vehicles will be placed at all identified flash points. Anti-riot platoons equipped with anti-riot kits will be on standby.
IG Jamali also ordered the deployment of Rapid Response Force and Special Security Unit commandos. He suggested a security rehearsal ahead of the deployment of these personnel. Karachi AIG Ghulam Qadir Thebo has been asked to convene a meeting before the deployment of the police personnel to let them know about their responsibilities so that no lapse takes place. Jamali also stressed the importance of women police deployment. "The plan was finalised after a coordination meeting with Pakistan Rangers and after a consultation with the Sindh election commissioner," stated the press release.
According to a letter issued by the provincial election commission, the by-polls in the NA-246 constituency will be held on April 23 from 8am to 5pm, without any intervals. The decision was made by the Election Commission of Pakistan under Section 25 of Representation of the People Act, 1976.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 15th, 2015.