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Monday May 27, 2024

Army, Rangers deployed for by-polls: Battle for 21 constituencies today

By-polls are being held in NA-8 Bajaur, NA-44 Dera Ismail Khan, NA-119 Lahore, NA-132 Kasur and NA-196 Qambar Shahdadkot, according to ECP

By Ali Raza & Mumtaz Alvi & News Desk & Sher Ali Khalti
April 21, 2024
Pakistan Army troops perform election duty.— APP/File
Pakistan Army troops perform election duty.— APP/File 

LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: Polling for by-elections in five National Assembly (NA) constituencies and 16 constituencies of provincial assemblies will be held on Sunday (today).

Polling will start at 8am and continue till 5pm.

According to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), by-polls will be held in NA-8 Bajaur, NA-44 Dera Ismail Khan, NA-119 Lahore, NA-132 Kasur and NA-196 Qambar Shahdadkot. 

Punjab Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz had vacated NA-119 Lahore seat and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif NA-132 Kasur after staging victory in more than one constituencies. With these two high profile seats of NA and five provincial assembly seats, the Lahore Division is in the limelight currently.

For Punjab Assembly, by-polls will be held in 12 constituencies, including PP-22 Chakwal, PP-32 Gujrat-Vl, PP-36 Wazirabad-ll, PP-54 Narowal-l, PP-93 Bhakkar-V, PP-139 Sheikhupura-lV, PP-147 Lahore-lll, PP-149 Lahore-V, PP-158 Lahore-XlV, PP-164 Lahore XX, PP-266 Rahim Yar Khan-Xll and PP-290 Dera Ghazi Khan-V. In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, by-polls will be held at PK-22 Bajaur-lV, PK-91 Kohat,

PB-20 Khuzdar-lll and PB-22 Lasbela 12. As many as 174 candidates were in the fray for the by-elections in 12 provincial constituencies in Punjab, where the number of eligible voters is over 4 million. The ECP said 2,000 polling stations have been set up in Punjab.

According to the Election Commission, more than 1.4 million voters will cast their vote in the by-elections of two provincial constituencies of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, and 49 candidates are taking part in the elections, for which 892 polling stations have been established. Of these, 139 have been declared sensitive.

According to the ECP, by-elections will be held in two provincial constituencies in Balochistan where more than 3 lakh voters will exercise their right to vote at 354 polling stations.

The ECP said all preparations for the by-elections have been completed. The election material has been delivered to the polling stations, while additional security personnel would be deployed at the sensitive polling stations.

On the other hand, mobile and internet services would remain suspended in 13 cities of Punjab during the by-elections. Punjab’s Home Department has written a letter to the interior ministry, which said that mobile and internet services would remain suspended in Lahore, Sheikhupura, Kasur, DG Khan, Talagang, Gujrat, Alipur Chattha, Zafarwal, Bhakkar, Chakwal, Sadiqabad, Alipur and Kot Chattha. A copy of the letter has also been sent to the Punjab chief secretary, inspector general of police, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) chairman as well as other relevant officials.

Meanwhile, for convenience of people, the ECP has established election monitoring control centre (EMCC). According to an ECP spokesperson, the centre will remain open for the public and there will be facility to register complaints for timely redress of grievances.

The ECP spokesperson said immediate action would be taken and for the purpose, trained staff had been appointed to the centre. The ECP has also established control centres at four levels for registration of public complaints and their immediate redress.

In addition to the ECP Secretariat in Islamabad, control rooms have been established at provincial, divisional and district levels. The spokesperson said citizens could contact the EMCC through e-mail (complaints@ecp.gov.pk), while the centre has also provided a dedicated helpline facility at 051-111327000. It will work round-the-clock on the day of polling and till the results were received. Complaints can also be send through fax number 051-9204404.

Meanwhile, on the request of ECP, the federal government has approved deployment of Pakistan Army and civil armed forces (CAF) troops for security during the by-elections.

The government would use the armed forces units as a quick response force. The interior ministry has issued an order in this regard. The notification says that the CAF and Pakistan Army units would be used as second and third tiers of security and they would be available with immediate effect till April 22 in 21 constituencies.

“The exact number of troops, date/period, area and mode of deployment would be worked out by the ECP in consultation with all 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 notification said.

The ECP also issued the code of conduct for the armed forces and civil armed forces on Saturday to ensure secure and peaceful environment during the by-election in 21 constituencies, and re-poll in Balochistan’s PB-50, Qila Abdullah.

The ECP said the security forces would ensure secure environment for easy and secure access of voters to polling stations, wherein the police will be the first tier responders, while the civil armed forces and armed forces would act as second and third tier responders, respectively.

Separately, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) alleged on Saturday that the party leaders and workers were facing a crackdown after the announcement of by-poll schedule. “Raids are being conducted after the by-election announcement,” PTI Secretary Information Raoof Hasan said in Islamabad. He alleged that “returning officers were being forced to sign blank papers”, and those who refuse to follow the orders are being “tortured”.

Elaborating on the party’s strategy, Hasan claimed that his party would try to give a big surprise in Sunday’s electoral event. He also denounced the closure of mobile phone services during the by-election. “Internet was also closed on February 8 nationwide elections and now, the closure of these services is being signalled again,” criticised Hasan.