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Armed Forces to Guard Polling Stations for Five Days During Upcoming Elections

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) announced on Thursday that the armed forces would be deployed outside the “most sensitive polling stations” for a period of five days during the upcoming general elections.

In a notification, the ECP stated that the Pakistan armed forces and civil armed forces would assist in providing a secure environment by deploying in Quick Reaction Force mode from Feb 5 to Feb 10, aiming to support the ECP in ensuring the conduct of free, fair, and transparent elections.

Scheduled for next month, the elections in Pakistan have raised concerns from human rights watchdogs, citing a lack of a level playing field for certain political parties in the pre-election period.

The transitional government, led by interim Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar, will oversee the elections. The caretaker federal cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Kakar, approved the deployment of armed forces during the polls, as proposed by the interior ministry.

Elections

The ECP had requested over 270,000 army personnel for nationwide deployment to maintain security and address the law and order situation. According to the notification, civil armed forces would also be stationed at key locations in Islamabad from Jan 12 to Feb 8 to manage comprehensive arrangements for the printing, stacking, and storage of ballot papers.

Furthermore, the armed and civil armed forces are tasked with assisting in the security of transporting ballot papers and election materials. The notification outlined a tiered security mechanism, with the police as tier-1 responders, civil armed forces at tier-2, and the army at tier-3. Sufficient mobile vigilance teams are to be deployed across all constituencies.

The ECP emphasized that armed forces should conduct reconnaissance of each constituency based on threat assessments and provide security during the transportation of election materials.

Additionally, a code of conduct for the armed forces during polls was issued, requiring personnel to remain impartial, and neutral, and refrain from favoring any political party or candidate.

Their role includes identifying suspicious voters for frisking/checking by police personnel and ensuring no unauthorized items are brought into polling stations. The armed forces are also instructed not to interfere in the functions of election officials.

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