ISLAMABAD - The Election Commission of Pakistan [ECP] has sought deployment of Rangers in six sensitive constituencies of two provinces [Punjab and Sindh] for the upcoming by-elections.
“The present atmosphere in the 20 Punjab constituencies is politically-charged. Certain political leaders are raising the emotions of their workers/supporters, so police alone would not be able to provide a conducive environment to conduct elections in a free, fair and peaceful manner, ” said Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikander Sultan Raja in a letter to Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah.
In the letter, the Chief Election Commissioner sought deployment of Rangers in four constituencies in Lahore, one in Multan and also in Karachi’s NA-245. The NA 245 by-election is scheduled for July 27 whereas the by-elections in Punjab will take place on July 17, according to the schedule.
The CEC sought deployment of the Quick Response Force (QRF) for 15 other constituencies in Punjab to avoid any “untoward situation”. In the letter, he said the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) experience with the NA-240 by-election and the first phase of local government elections in Sindh showed that police alone was unable to control violence due to fewer numbers. “Most of the times, these numerical inadequacies coupled with [a] lack of proper training and resources prohibit timely action, thus resulting in violence spiralling out of control.”
He said that the political narrative had “vitiated the atmosphere considerably, causing increased polarisation” and putting the upcoming election at risk. Rangers were an effective deterrent in the first phase of the local government in Sindh, “although at times the reaction time was longer than would have been required to curtail a flare up of [a] situation”, he mentioned.
In the letter, the CEC pointed out that under Article 220 of the Constitution, all executive authorities in the federation and the provinces were bound to assist the ECP in discharging its duties. “Keeping in view the law and order situation of the areas/constituencies, it is reiterated that the Pakistan Rangers (Punjab)/Pakistan Rangers (Sindh) be deployed in sensitive four constituencies of Lahore and one each in Multan and NA-245 Karachi and enhanced QRF for other 15 constituencies in Punjab so that by-elections in the constituencies could be conducted peacefully, fairly and to guard against any untoward situation,” he said. Sources in ECP said that the CEC had also written to Chief of Army Staff Qamar Javed Bajwa in this regard seeking deployment of Rangers in sensitive constituencies.
Meanwhile, the ECP spokesperson said, “Police alone are not enough to enforce the law and prevent incidents of violence which is why the ECP has sought additional support from the army and Rangers,” he said.