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Friday May 24, 2024

Govt okays deployment of military, paramilitary forces for by-polls

Following federal govt's nod, Interior Ministry issued notification regarding deployment of forces

By Ayaz Akbar Yousafzai
April 20, 2024
Pakistan Army soldiers stand guard as officials carry election materials at a distribution centre in Islamabad — AFP/File
Pakistan Army soldiers stand guard as officials carry election materials at a distribution centre in Islamabad — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Assenting to the Election Commission of Pakistan's (ECP) request for foolproof security arrangements during the by-elections in 21 constituencies, the federal government Saturday approved deployment of units of the Pakistan Army and Civil Armed Forces (CAF).

The military and paramilitary troops would be used as a standby or quick response force. Following the federal government’s nod, the Interior Ministry has issued a notification regarding deployment of the forces.

The notification mentions that the CAF and Pakistan Army troops would be available from April 20 to 22 in the 21 constituencies and they would be used as second and third tiers of security.

"The exact number of troops, date/period, area and mode of deployment would be worked out by the ECP in consultation with all concerned stakeholders based on ground requirement/ assessment. The date of de-requisitioning of the said deployment will be decided subsequently after mutual consultation among all stakeholders," the Ministry of Interior said in its notification.

The CAF and army troops would be deployed in five National Assembly constituencies, 12 Punjab Assembly, two Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly and two Balochistan Assembly constituencies.

Punjab seeks suspension of mobile internet services

The Punjab government also requested the federal government to suspend mobile internet services in the province's 13 districts and tehsils on April 21 (tomorrow) owing to the by-polls.

The request has been made to maintain law and order situation in the province and avoid any untoward incident.

In a letter to the interior ministry, the provincial home department requested the suspension, as by-elections are scheduled on nearly two dozen National and provincial assembly constituencies on Sunday.

According to the letter, the request for the suspension of mobile internet services has been made for Lahore, Sheikhupura, Kasur, Sadiqabad, Kot Chutta, and Dera Ghazi Khan districts.

Meanwhile, the tehsils where suspension is requested include Talagang, Chakwal, Kallar Kahar, Gujrat, Ali Pur Chatha, Zafarwal and Bhakkar.

A copy of the letter has also been sent to the Punjab chief secretary, inspector general, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) chairman as well as other relevant officials.

It is important to note that the mobile internet services were blocked on February 8 as well despite assurances by the government of undisrupted network connectivity during polls.

By-elections on 21 seats

In the first major by-poll exercise after the February 8 elections, by-polls will be held on 21 National Assembly and provincial assembly seats.

In Punjab, NA-132 (Kasur) and NA-119 (Lahore) — vacated by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz — will see candidates up against each other on Sunday.

PM Shehbaz also gave up two of his provincial assembly seats in Lahore, PP-158 and PP-164, retaining his NA-123 seat in the National Assembly.

In KP, the NA-44 (Dera Ismail Khan) seat was left vacant after provincial Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur retained his provincial assembly seat, PK-113, while by-polls will also be conducted in the NA-8 (Bajaur) constituency, which was left vacant after one of its candidates — Rehan Zeb Khan — was murdered ahead of the February 8 general elections.

The provincial assembly seats on which by-polls will be held include Punjab's PP-22 Chakwal-Cum-Talagang, PP-32 Gujrat-VI, PP-36 Wazirabad-II, PP-54 Narowal-|, PP-93 Bhakkar-V, PP-139 Sheikhupura-IV, PP-147 Lahore-III, PP-149 Lahore-V, PP-158 Lahore-XIV, PP-164 Lahore-XX, PP-266 Rahim Yar Khan-XII, PP-290 Dera Ghazi Khan-V; KP's PK-22 Bajaur-IV, PK-91 Kohat-II; Balochistan's PB-20 Khuzdar-III, PB-22 Lasbela.