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Wednesday February 21, 2024

Arrangements in place for ‘free, peaceful’ polls: minister

ECP finalised all arrangements for holding elections on February 8, says Solangi

February 04, 2024

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has finalised all arrangements for holding elections on February 8, and political parties have intensified their public rallies with only three more days left for them to conclude their campaigns.

Caretaker Federal Information Minister Murtaza Solangi addresses a press conference in Islamabad on Feb 3, 2024. — PID
Caretaker Federal Information Minister Murtaza Solangi addresses a press conference in Islamabad on Feb 3, 2024. — PID

Addressing a press conference here on Saturday, Caretaker Federal Information Minister Murtaza Solangi promised that the upcoming elections would be peaceful. He said the arrangements related to elections had been completed and the authorities concerned had made a good security plan.

He was flanked by Foreign Office Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Special Secretary Zafar Iqbal Hussain, Principal Information Officer Dr Tariq Mehmood Khan as well as Executive Director General External Publicity Wing Ambreen Jan.

“We have divided the security into three parts: in the first part, police will perform their duties, Rangers and FC (Frontier Constabulary) will perform the second, while the third layer of security will be under Pakistan Army,” he said.

To a question as to how quickly the army troops deployed would be able to respond in case of a problem, the caretaker minister remarked, “Probably in less than the fingers on your hands in terms of minutes.”

Recalling the previous polls which saw deteriorated law and order in the country, Solangi said terrorism was seen during the 2008 and 2013 general election.

“Terrorism increased after the Taliban took over the Kabul government as al-Qaeda and TTP (Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan) use Afghanistan as a safe haven,” said the information minister. He said they had made full security arrangements at the polling stations, adding that the security forces were fully prepared for elections.

“Pakistan is taking action against terrorists,” he added. The security situation in KP and Balochistan provinces created concerns regarding the conduct of elections.

Solangi said Pakistan is fifth larger democracy of the world where people elect democratic governments. He said election would take place on 266 seats of National Assembly and over 120 million people would exercise their right to vote. Among them 69 million are male and over 59 million female voters.

He said: “Ninety two international observers from different countries will cover the elections: they belong to the European Union, Commonwealth, Russian Federation, Japan, South Africa, Malaysia, Zimbabwe, The Netherlands, Hungary, Sweden, Azerbaijan and Germany.”

The minister emphasised that more than ample resources had been made available to ensure peaceful, free and fair elections next week.

Replying to a question about the elections being “highly one-sided with military holding the charge”, he insisted, “We are a free country. The media is free. They have been venting their dissent. They have the right to criticise any judgement of the courts. As far as verdicts of the courts are concerned, the caretaker government has no comment. We do not control courts”.

About allegations of victimisation of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leaders and party workers, the interim minister said these allegations were baseless and absurd. He added that some PTI activists were arrested, but they were detained in connection with their involvement in May 9 incidents or other criminal acts. “The PTI leadership has options, including knocking at the doors of courts, including the superior judiciary,” he said.

Meanwhile, the ECP strongly dismissed deceptive tickers and reports disseminated by certain private news channels, aiming to mislead the public regarding the capability and utility of Election Management System (EMS).

An ECP spokesperson said that certain private channels are spreading false propaganda regarding the non-functionality and faults in the EMS. He said indeed the functionality of EMS had undergone multiple tests, leaving no doubt about its efficiency.