Police, paramilitary forces, and army will ensure security in first, second, and third tiers, respectively: Solangi
- Law and order, terrorism not new issues in Pakistan, Solangi says.
- Minister reassures of security arrangements for polling stations.
- He reiterates government’s resolve to ensure peaceful elections.
With the February 8 elections a few days away amid the prevailing terror wave that has gripped the country in recent months, caretaker Minister for Information Murtaza Solangi Sunday reaffirmed armed forces’ readiness to provide security and maintain law and order ahead of the polls.
“Our battle-hardened security forces are fully prepared for the elections,” Solangi said while briefing the foreign observers and media persons — who have arrived to monitor the elections — in Islamabad.
The minister’s remarks come as last month, the caretaker federal cabinet, in response to the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) request, approved the deployment of the Pakistan Army and troops of civil armed forces to help the civil institutions in holding free, fair and peaceful general elections.
Meanwhile, the military, in its 262nd Corps Commanders’ Conference (CCC), has also expressed its resolve not to allow anyone to indulge in violence in the name of political activity and sabotage the quintessential democratic exercise of conduct of free and fair elections.
“The Pakistan Army will perform assigned duties as per the constitutional mandate, under the guidelines of ECP. No one would be allowed to indulge in violence in the name of political activity and sabotage the quintessential democratic exercise of conduct of free and fair elections,” the army’s top brass had said.
Elections in Pakistan have often been marred with incidents of political violence as well as terror-related incidents — and it seems the upcoming elections are no different.
There has been a rise in terrorist attacks as well with several independent candidates as well as those from parties, have been targeted by miscreants in the run-up to the polls.
Addressing the recent surge in terror attacks, Solangi said that law and order and terrorism were not new issues in Pakistan, as it has been battling the scourge of terrorism for the past few decades.
“Since 2021, with the change of guard in Kabul, terrorist groups of various hues and colours having safe sanctuaries in a neighbouring country have become more active. [However] Pakistan was taking action against terrorists and that peaceful elections would be ensured at all costs,” he noted.
Recalling the 2008 and 2013 elections conducted, as per him, under the shadow of security threats, the minister acknowledged that some elements had been spreading rumours in the recent past about the elections, citing the severity of the weather, the law and order situation, or some other issues.
However, he reassured that full security arrangements have been made at the polling stations, and the government will ensure peaceful and transparent elections.
“Police would be in the first tier, Rangers and Frontier Constabulary would perform duty in the second tier, while the third tier of security would be with the Pakistan Army as a quick response force,” Solangi said.
The minister’s comments hold significance as apart from terrorist attacks, violent clashes between political parties have been witnessed in the port city of Karachi, with at least one fatality being reported along with multiple injuries in various scuffles between the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) in Karachi.
On the issue of international observers — for the polls — in the country, the minister said that 92 international observers from the European Union (EU), Commonwealth, Russian Federation, Japan, South Africa, Malaysia, Zimbabwe, the Netherlands, Hungary, Sweden, Azerbaijan, and Germany will cover the elections.
In response to a question about the allegations of victimisation of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leaders and party workers, he said that these allegations were baseless and absurd.
Solangi said that some PTI activists were arrested, but they were detained in connection with their involvement in May 9 incidents or other criminal acts.
The minister said the PTI leadership was free to criticise the government and the court’s verdicts as they have other legal options, including seeking relief from the courts and the superior judiciary.