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Pakistan Army refuses to provide security for Punjab provincial polls

IANS | March 15, 2023 12:48 PM

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has been notified by the country's army that troops will not be available to provide security during the upcoming Assembly elections in Punjab province.

This comes after the ECP conducted back-to-back meeting with top Punjab officials, federal government officials of the Defence Ministry to work up a plan to hold the elections for the Punjab Assembly on April 30.

However, the response from the army has put serious questions and concerns over the elections of the country's largest province.

The ECP has been reaching out to security forces and law enforcement agencies to provide security during the election process.

Accoring to sources, the armed forces maintained that the current security situation in the country with increasing terror attacks and threats, causing serious threats to the the law and order situation, remain as their first and top priority.

"Defence Secretary Lt. General (Retd) Hamooduz Zaman Khan has briefed the Election Commissioner on the law and order situation, border situation and deployment of troops inside the country, " said an official of the ECP.

"The Defence Secretary said that the security of the borders was primary responsibility of the army."

Sources also revealed the armed forces have maintained that the increased terror threats, border security situation and the country's current economic situation has also had an affect on the army as well, which was why, the troops were not available for election duty this time.

Terming election duty as a secondary task, Zaman Khan highlighted that it will be the decision of the government to either limit the armed forces on their basic duties of border security and terror threat countering, or assign for election security as well.

The refusal of the army to provide its troops comes after the caretaker government of Punjab also declined to provide security for the elections.

"In view of the current threats of terror attacks by militant groups, security forces remain on high alert. Our troops are also providing security to ongoing census enumerators. And with the holy month of Ramazan coming up, special deployments will also be done at mosques, markets and other possible targets of terror attacks. Considering these circumstances, it would be very difficult to provide security for all the political events, " said IG (Inspector General) Police Punjab.

"The aim was not just the elections, but holding the transparent voting. It was not possible to hold elections in these circumstances especially when the voting of provincial and national assemblies was to be held separately, " said Zaman Khan.

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