Army 'excuses itself' once again from providing security in LG polls

By
Nausheen Yusuf
|
Pakistan Army troops can be seen in a military vehicle during reconnaissance at most sensitive constituencies ahead of the Punjab by-polls, on July 16, 2022. — ISPR
Pakistan Army troops can be seen in a military vehicle during reconnaissance at most sensitive constituencies ahead of the Punjab by-polls, on July 16, 2022. — ISPR

  • Army refuses ECP's requests for LG polls security. 
  • Says it's provinces' responsibility to provide security. 
  • ECP receives interior ministry's letter, stating army's reply.


ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Army has once again excused itself from providing security outside "sensitive and most sensitive" polling stations during the second phase of local governments elections in Karachi and Hyderabad scheduled for January 15, said the interior ministry on Friday.

The General Headquarters (GHQ) has repeatedly declined the deploying troops for the local body polls amid the security situation in the country.

"The GHQ has stated that as already intimated given current deployment and very high number of sensitive and most sensitive polling stations, required static deployment and security cover to polling staff and material as desired by [ECP] is not possible," a letter from the interior ministry to the commission read.

Letter from the interior ministry to the ECP on January 13, 2023. — Photo by author
Letter from the interior ministry to the ECP on January 13, 2023. — Photo by author

The GHQ said that the provincial government is responsible for providing first-tier security/static deployment outside polling stations. 

"Moreover, the current tiered deployment of law enforcement agencies/civil armed forces/army, as already practiced in multiple elections/local government elections in last couple of years, has paid its dividends and is considered suitable for application in impending Sindh Local Government Elections (Phase-2) as well," the letter read.

However, the GHQ has conceded to sending paratroopers for providing security cover outside 500 sensitive polling stations, the letter stated. The army, however, has stressed upon the election commission to specify 500 sensitive polling stations, the interior ministry said.

"An effort will be made to provide required static deployment of Rangers at these polling stations in support of police as a one-time measure," the letter states," it said.

The development comes after the intelligence agencies, citing severe “security threats”, recommended the elections commission to postpone the second phase of the local body, according to well-placed sources.

A meeting of the institutions "responsible for national security" was held in Karachi today, the sources said, adding that the huddle expressed “severe concerns” over the recent LG polls in Sindh.

Strong networks of banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) exist in the province, the meeting was told.

Terrorism has witnessed a spike in the country in recent months after the TTP ended a ceasefire with Islamabad and took innocent lives.

But the Pakistan Army's top brass and the federal government have vowed to beat the terrorists and eliminate the menace — however, the threat still remains.

The activities of militants have been mainly focused in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, with the former accounting for 31% of the attacks during the last year and the latter 67%, according to statistics provided by Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah.

But before the intelligence agencies' warning, Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon said that the provincial government had decided to delay the polls due to concerns of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P).

The Karachi-based party has stressed that the local body elections in Karachi and Hyderabad could not be held until a new delimitation, but at the same time, it did not rule out its participation.

The second round of LG elections was scheduled to take place on July 24 last year, but the Sindh government excused itself from holding the polls over the lack of security and police presence due to the flooding. Later, the elections were also postponed on August 28, October 23, and a day earlier, the announcement was made for January 15 — making it the fourth possible time that the polls might be delayed.