ISLAMABAD - Expressing inability out of operational constraints to guard all the polling stations across the country, the military on Friday reportedly re-conveyed to the Election Commission that military security was possible only at sensitive polling stations.
Moreover, the military command has asked the election authorities to prepare a list of the sensitive polling stations where the regular military or paramilitary troops are to be deployed during the general elections.
The Election Commission would hand over the said list to the Army after setting up district election security committees (DESC) to mark the sensitive polling stations, after the announcement of elections schedule, according to sources.
These decisions were said to have been arrived at during the visit of the Secretary Election Commission of Pakistan Ishtiak Ahmed Khan to the General Headquarters (GHQ) on Friday to discuss the security measures with the military leadership for the general polls.
A military statement said the secretary visited Military Operations (MO) Directorate at the GHQ. "Army authorities assured all possible support to ECP to ensure peaceful environment for the elections. More details of sensitive areas / polling stations will be worked out by ECP and shared in next meeting scheduled after announcement of election dates," it added.
Military sources said Ishtiak Khan had met Corps Commander Rawalpindi Lieutenant General Khalid Nawaz Khan, Chief of General Staff (CGS) Lt-Gen Rashid Mehmood and Director General MO Major General Ishfaq Nadeem. The secretary was reportedly accompanied by the ECP's DG (Elections) Syed Sher Afgan.
Reportedly, a meeting between Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and the secretary ECP was on the cards but it could not be held due to General Kayani's day-long participation in Army selection board meeting for the promotion of Army officers.
Earlier this year, the Secretary Defence Lt-Gen (r) Asif Yasin Malik had conveyed to the ECP that the provision of military troops at all the polling stations across Pakistan was not possible due to extensive occupation of the troops in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) while the military and paramilitary troops could be deployed at the sensitive stations only.
This, the military officials said, was re-conveyed to the secretary ECP in Friday's meeting citing targeted operations in parts of FATA, Frontier Regions (FRs) and ongoing drive against insurgency in parts of Balochistan.
The military and the paramilitary troops would be deployed at the polling stations marked as highly sensitive, mostly in Balochistan, KP, FATA and FRs. The FC (Frontier Corps) or Rangers would not be deployed where the regular military troops would be deputed, at the remaining sensitive polling stations, reportedly.
In January this year, the ECP had announced setting up a district election security committee in each district throughout Pakistan to oversee security arrangements. To be led by a district returning officer (DRO), the committee would include district police officers (DPOs), district coordination officers (DCOs) and other civil administration officials. In FATA, the political agents and assistant political agents would be the members of the DESCs. These committees that are to identify and mark the sensitive polling stations and hand over the related list to the military are to be formed after the announcement of elections schedule. In December last year, the ECP had asked the ministries of defence and interior for the provision of security from military, FC and Rangers during the general polls.
Later in the same month, General Kayani met Chief Election Commissioner Justice (r) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim and assured him complete compliance and support for the provision of foolproof security in general polls.
In January, the GHQ had reportedly instructed the general officers commanding (GOCs) concerned, director generals FC Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, as well as the DGs Rangers (Sindh and Punjab) to coordinate with the election authorities at provincial level for drawing roadmap for the military troops deployment in the sensitive areas where required.