Military won’t perform elections duties, govt tells ECP

By Anzal Amin

ISLAMABAD: The Interior Ministry has informed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) that the Armed Forces would not be able to perform security duties during the Provincial Assembly elections in Punjab and KP as well as by-elections on 64 National Assembly seats as it was busy conducting census and counter-terror operations, it emerged on Thursday.
Earlier this week, the electoral body had written to the federal government, seeking the deployment of troops of civil armed forces for the conduct of general and by-elections in various constituencies of the national and provincial as-semblies.
In its correspondence dated Feb 8 the Interior Ministry said that Pakistan was going through a difficult security situa-tion as evidenced by a recent spike in incidents of terrorism across the country.
It mentioned the multi-dimensional security concerns which include border security, internal security duties, mainte-nance of law and order and deployment at forward posts to counter the increased terrorist activities by miscreants and anti-state elements.
The ministry noted that intelligence agencies and the National Counter Terrorism Authority have been issuing threat alerts regarding the security situation prevailing in the country, which have also been shared with the provincial gov-ernments.
It regretted that a number of terror incidents took place in the last month leading to the loss of precious lives. One of these was the suicide bombing at a mosque in the Peshawar Police Lines that killed more than 80 people, mostly po-licemen.
In this context, it is to be noted that security forces are fully engaged in combatting the threats posed by terrorists to the peace and stability of the country and the life and property of the people, the letter said. It said the onslaught of terrorist activities tested the capacity of the law enforcement agencies to the maximum extent leaving little room to spare for other activities.It further highlighted that a terrorist organisation had openly threatened politicians and there was apprehension that the political leadership could be potential targets during the election campaign.
The Interior Ministry said that the ECP’s request was also taken up with the Military Operations Directorate at the General Headquarters (GHQ) as it was a key stakeholder. According to the letter, it was conveyed that both the armed and civil forces, besides their routine border manage-ment tasks, are overwhelmingly committed to addressing internal security challenges in view of the advanced threat of terrorism in the country. In addition, the troops are also required to undertake widespread deployment for achiev-ing secure conduct of the census. Apropos, their availability for the desired deployment during the conduct of by-elections on 64 National Assembly seats in four provinces and the conduct of provincial assembly elections in KP and Punjab remains unfeasible, it stated.