Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa authorities are considering calling in the armed forces for local government re-elections on July 5 to secure polling stations where either rigging or mismanagement or both took place.
The provincial election commission issued a notification on June 25, stating fresh elections would be held at 365 polling stations as the electoral process had been affected by poor law and order and mass mismanagement on May 30. The polling stations include 30 in the provincial capital, while the others are in Nowshera, Mardan, Swabi, Charsadda, Karak, Bannu, Abbottabad, DI Khan, Lakki Marwat, Mansehra and Buner.
Yes army, no army
An official privy to the development said the government would hold a meeting to review the security situation for the day of re-elections. “The government is not in a position to withstand any unwanted incidents like the ones that occurred during the polls on May 30. As a result, it will use all available options to maintain law and order,” said the official, requesting anonymity.
Senior Minister for Local Government Inayatullah Khan took a more coy approach when asked about the possible army deployment on July 5. “We can request the Pakistan Army to provide security at polling stations, however, it is not at our disposal.
He added the matter was being considered and it was still undecided whether the military would be asked to make its presence felt. “Chief Minister Pervez Khattak said we would hold meetings with the chief secretary, home secretary and police to devise a security plan at polling stations. We are thinking of every possible step to ensure order during the elections,” he said. The minister added the meeting would be held in a day or two under the CM’s chairmanship.
Jurisdiction to investigate
Responding to a question, he said the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) did raise objections over an enquiry committee headed by the K-P chief secretary. However, he added the committee would continue to perform its task. “The committee is not looking into rigging or election mismanagement, but was looking into the role of the police and other related departments on the May 30 election day.”
Khattak had constituted the committee, headed by the chief secretary, on June 9 and asked it to submit its report to the government in seven days. However, it failed to do so. Later, the ECP raised objections over the status of the committee and wrote to the provincial government, asking that it be stopped from functioning. The ECP maintained investigations into rigging were its domain and therefore the provincial government could not interfere.
Opposition and treasury parties both agreed the local government elections held on May 30 were terribly mismanaged and mass rigging took place. After a long-drawn out game of pointing fingers, the ECP finally decided to hold re-elections at 365 polling stations. Even before the original elections, the PTI had been requesting that the army be called in to supervise the polling exercise, as the provincial government’s machinery lacked the resources to conduct polls.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2015.