ECP seeks deployment of army, civil armed forces at polling stations

Mumtaz Alvi
Tuesday, Dec 05, 2023

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission has formally sought the deployment of the Pakistan Army and Civil Armed Forces outside the polling stations in the Quick Response Force (QRF) mode for the elections given the fragile security situation and non-availability of police in adequate numbers.

The development followed the announcement by the Ministry of Finance to release the urgently required Rs17 billion to ECP ‘within two days’ after ECP’s protest over the delay in the provision of the funds for the conduct of general polls scheduled for February 8.

The decision by the Election Commission to seek Pakistan army and Civil Armed Forces deployment in static and QRF modes was taken in a recent meeting to ensure the security and safety of voters. “Keeping in view the deficiency of police personnel indicated by the provinces and the federal capital, the Election Commission of Pakistan has decided that given the clear shortfall of 277,558 personnel, the services of Pakistan Army and Civil Armed Forces (CAFs) shall have to be requisitioned in a static mode in terms of Article 220 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan at the polling stations to ensure smooth elections,” says a letter written to Secretary Interior Aftab Akbar Durrani, a copy of which is available with The News.

“This is all the more relevant in the context of fragile security cum law and order situation prevalent in the country…the availability of Pak Army and Civil Armed Forces (CAFs) may be ensured both in static and in QRF mode to fill the shortfall of security personnel and necessary confirmation to this effect may be furnished at the earliest but not later than December 7, 2023 for presentation before the Hon’ble Commission,” the letter read. The Election Commission, it said, takes all necessary steps to organize an election in accordance with the Constitution and the relevant election laws: it also expects the same commitment from the executive authorities and law enforcement agencies to maintain law and order in the area of the constituencies during the conduct of elections.

According to the letter, the Election Commission will issue the election programme shortly which would facilitate the working of the Ministry of Interior. Keeping in view the exigency of the matter, the Election Commission also sought instant reports from Inspectors General of Police (IGPs) regarding requirements and availability and to indicate the shortfall of Police personnel for ensuring foolproof security arrangements and peaceful conduct of forthcoming general elections. Citing the police strength of provinces and the Federal Capital, the Election Commission noted, that there is a shortfall of 169,110 personnel in Punjab, 18,500 in Sindh, 56,717 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 13,769 in Balochistan and 4,500 in Islamabad, the letter, written on December 4 said.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Finance will release within two days the urgently required Rs17 billion, after the Election Commission of Pakistan ‘protested’ over the delay in the provision of the funds for the conduct of general polls scheduled for February 8.

According to sources, the Election Commission summoned the Secretary of Finance Imdad Ullah Bosal on Monday and told him of their intention to write to the caretaker prime minister about the delay in releasing the amount. However, the ECP decided not to do so after getting categorical assurances from the secretary.

Bosal assured the electoral body that the Finance Ministry would release the funds immediately as required by the Election Commission in a day or two. The assurances followed, according to sources, approaching the Ministry of Finance several times for the provision of the amount, while a written reminder was also sent to press the demand,

The sources pointed out that the ECP had sought Rs 51 billion for the general elections, but later after a series of meetings it settled for Rs 47 billion, out of which Rs 5 billion were released during the previous fiscal year. Likewise, in June this year, the budgeted amount of Rs42 billion for the general elections was approved, out of which only Rs10 billion had so far been released to the ECP. “After lack of positive response the ECP was compelled to summon secretary Finance. We were so concerned over the delay in the disbursement of the remaining funds and the Chief Election Commissioner decided to take up the matter with the caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar ul Haq Kakar by writing to him about the issue,” they claimed. The Finance Ministry explained that the ECP’s letter of November 14 was received on November 18, whereas the disbursement of funds requires approval at various levels.

Reacting to the development, the Interim Information Minister Murtaza Solangi in his message on X account, formerly Twitter. “There is no crisis in meeting the financial needs of the ECP. The cabinet had approved Rs 42 billion for the budgetary needs of the ECP. An amount of Rs 10 billion was already released. The ECP has approached to release Rs 17.4 billion out of the budgeted amount,” explained. He wrote that whatever budgeted amount is needed by the ECP it will be released as per its needs accordingly. “We firmly stand behind the ECP in holding free and fair elections as mandated by Article 218(3) of the Constitution,” he said.