As the country approaches the national polls on February 8, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has issued directives to the armed forces assigned to poll duty.
The caretaker federal cabinet, based on the Ministry of Interior’s recommendation, has unanimously approved the deployment of the Pakistan Army and civil armed forces personnel in sensitive constituencies for the upcoming general elections.
The primary objective is to assist civil institutions in ensuring free, fair, and peaceful general elections. The ECP has emphasized that security personnel must remain impartial and neutral throughout the election process, avoiding any bias toward or against political parties or candidates. The notification instructs armed forces and civil armed forces to operate within the defined role of the armed forces as outlined in Article 245 of the Constitution of Pakistan.
The army personnel will be stationed outside police stations in sensitive constituencies to provide a secure environment for voters accessing polling stations. The ECP has outlined a tiered response system, designating the police as the first-tier responders at polling stations, followed by civil armed forces and armed forces as second and third-tier responders, respectively.
Responsibilities include providing security during the transportation of ballot papers and election materials, as well as maintaining a secure environment for electoral officers and staff. The ECP has delegated powers to officers and junior commissioned officers, emphasizing the need for professionalism, politeness, and adherence to the law while dealing with voters and election staff.
The personnel are instructed to report any irregularities or issues to the presiding officer and, if necessary, to the relevant returning officer. They are not to assume the duties of polling staff, interfere with the counting process, or engage in arguments with candidates, election agents, or media personnel. Additionally, armed forces are advised not to take custody of election materials, except in cases where voters possess weapons or pose a threat to national safety.
The ECP underscores the importance of maintaining public trust, abiding by relevant laws, and allowing accredited observers and media persons into polling stations. The armed forces are directed to ensure a safe environment, prevent disturbances, and contribute to law and order during the entire election process.