The Ministry of Defense has declined to provide security for the by-elections in 93 constituencies of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, and the national assemblies. At the same time, the Finance Ministry also refused to approve an additional grant to smoothly conduct the elections.
The defense ministry said this in response to a request from the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) which had asked the interior ministry to seek assistance from the armed forces to ensure security during the elections.
In its letter to the interior ministry, the Ministry of Defence apologized that it could not provide the static deployment of Rangers and FC for the upcoming by-elections, as, according to them, the deployment of the armed forces was not feasible.
Responding to the interior ministry’s request for deployment of the Rangers and FC forces outside the polling stations, the defense ministry told the Home Secretary that the armed forces and civil armed forces were currently engaged in border management and internal security management.
Threats of terrorism are on the rise in the country, said the ministry. Moreover, the armed forces will be engaged in the census process from February 27 to April 3 this year, it was said.
However, the Punjab Rangers will be available as the Quick Response Force during these elections.
On the other hand, replying to the ECP’s letter, the Ministry of Finance has asked the election-conducting authority to postpone its demand for an additional grant in the wider national interest, sources said.
The finance ministry requested the election commission to delay its request for the grant until the economic situation of the country improves.
IGs of Punjab, KP on security challenges during polls
Over the last couple of days, the top police officers of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have apprised the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) of the uphill security task during the upcoming elections following the dissolution of the two provincial assemblies.
“It cannot be presumed that the next elections will be completely peaceful,” Inspector-General of KP Police Moazzam Jah Ansari said in a meeting regarding polls in the province presided over by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja.
The IG said that there was a shortfall of 57,000 police personnel for security during the polls. The personnel shortfall cannot be met even after seeking the services of the Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan police, he said.
Ansari added that assistance of the Pakistan Army and Frontier Corps will be required.
The provincial police chief also shared statistics regarding attacks on law enforcers in KP. “In 2022, 494 attacks were carried out on the police, while 119 policemen were martyred,” he said and added that law enforcers have been attacked 46 times in 2023, and as a result, 93 policemen have lost their lives.
Meanwhile, Punjab IG Police Dr Usman Anwar also told CEC Raja during a meeting at the ECP about the challenge of conducting elections amid growing threats of terrorism in the province.
“The police operation in progress in South Punjab’s rural areas and other districts of the province will be completed in four to five months. It will be a difficult task to conduct elections until the operation is concluded,” he said while highlighting the threats of terrorism increasing in Punjab.
The Punjab top police officer told participants of the meeting that 412,852 police personnel are required for security during the polls. However, the number of police officers in Punjab is 11,5000. “300,000 more soldiers will be needed to meet this shortfall. The services of the Pakistan Army and Rangers will be needed to meet this shortfall.”
IG Anwar also said that 213 terror incidents were prevented from happening since December 2022 due to prior information. He added that almost all districts in the province have agency reports about terror incidents.