Friday, March 10, 2023

Key ministries brief ECP on issues regarding security, funds for Punjab, KP polls

A police official outside the ECP office in Islamabad. — AFP/File
A police official outside the ECP office in Islamabad. — AFP/File

  • ECP holds meeting with top officials on poll preparation.
  • Finance secretary says difficult to provide required funds.
  • Interior secretary urged to contact army and other LEAs.

ISLAMABAD: Despite the Supreme Court orders to provide necessary assistance, the interior and finance ministries have informed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) of certain factors causing difficulties for them to extend security and funds to the constitutional body for holding elections in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, The News reported.

The development emerged after Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja presided over a meeting with the top officials of the ministries regarding poll preparation.

The finance and interior secretaries were called to the meeting to ensure the provision of funds and security for the elections.

The ECP told Finance Secretary Hamed Yaqoob Sheikh that it would require at least Rs65 billion to hold the general election across the country. Out of this, Rs20 billion would be urgently needed for election in Punjab and KP.

Sheikh was told that, so far, the ECP was only provided with Rs5 billion and was yet to get the remaining Rs15 billion required in the current financial year.

As per the The News report, the finance secretary briefed the commission about the overall economic situation of the country. He said it was difficult for the ministry to provide the required funds but, he promised, he would give a final reply after consulting the federal government.

A source, privy to the meeting told The News that the finance secretary explained that the country was faced with an unprecedented economic crisis. He added that the country was under an IMF programme and had strict targets for maintaining fiscal discipline and fighting deficits.

Meanwhile, on election security, Interior Secretary Yousaf Naseem Khokhar informed the ECP that apart from the police in the two provinces, other law-enforcement agencies would require 297,000 additional personnel in Punjab and 56,000 in KP.

During the meeting, the secretary was urged to contact the army, rangers and other law-enforcement agencies and inform them to make arrangements for the required force.

The forum was also told that a meeting will be held with agencies, including the Intelligence Bureau, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and counter-terrorism departments of the two provinces on March 10 (today). The police chiefs and chief secretaries of Punjab and KP have also been summoned for a meeting next week.

Along with this, a meeting is also being held with the Ministry of Defence to finalise the arrangements for the election. The KP governor has also expressed his desire to hold a meeting with the commission next week to decide the date for provincial elections.

However, the ECP made it clear in the meeting that holding the general elections was a constitutional obligation, and also referred to the SC’s recent judgment in the suo motu case. Therefore, the commission asked the officials to seek instructions from the federal government in this connection on how to move forward.