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July 11, 2018

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Rigging charges raised before all polls: ISPR

RAWALPINDI: Director General Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asif Ghafoor Tuesday assured that the July 25 general elections would be transparent and the armed forces would play an impartial role in this regard.

Addressing a news conference here, he said the armed forces will fulfill the assigned responsibility strictly in accordance with the code of conduct.

General Ghafoor made it clear that the armed forces had no direct role in elections rather their role was to support the Election Commission for providing an environment for holding free, fair and transparent elections.

“The armed forces are in supporting role, while it is the ECP to conduct elections,” he said, adding there would be no interference of Pakistan Army in the polling process.

He said 371,388 armed forces personnel, including 134,894 personnel who had retired five years back, would be manning 85,307 polling stations to be housed in 48,500 buildings.

He said 4,000 each personnel of the Pakistan Navy and Pakistan Air Force would be among the troops performing the election duties.

A 20-minute video has also been prepared for the troops performing election duties to create awareness about their job.

“Fair and free elections means that all the political parties continue their activities without any fear before the election and voters are provided with such an environment in which they use their right to vote without succumbing to any pressure by force or at gun point,” he said.

He pointed out that a junior commissioned officer (JCO) in his area of responsibility would be given powers of Class-I Magistrate who would also have the authority to stop the polling process if he finds any glaring irregularity at the polling stations and then report the same to the officer concerned of the Election Commission.

He said a three-star General was heading the Army Election Support Cell based in Rawalpindi to coordinate with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

“For the first time, they (ECP) have forwarded a Code of Conduct according to which the army personnel and officers will perform their duties,” he said, adding that the armed forces would be bound to adhere to the ECP’s code of conduct.

He once again maintained that there would be no interference of the armed forces in the election process and they had been given only one order which was to support the ECP while remaining impartial to ensure fair and free elections.

Responding to a question, General Ghafoor said neither the Army had any favourite political party nor had it any political alignment.

Asked to comment on an impression that the PTI Chairman Imran Khan would not be acceptable to the Army as prime minister, he said, “Whosoever is nominated for the prestigious slot on his election by the people of Pakistan will be the prime minister. We are nobody to decide,” he said.

Rejecting an impression being given with reference to the ‘Jeep’ as an election symbol, the DG ISPR said election symbols were neither allotted by the Army nor its spy agency, ISI.

“This is not the army jeep rather these are the jeeps which are used by candidates,” he said.

General Asif Ghafoor said with the fair and transparent conduct of general elections, the country would be entering a new democratic era after third consecutive elections.

He told newsmen that the ECP under Articles 220 and 245, Anti Terrorist Act 1999 and the Election Act 2017 had assigned six responsibilities to the armed forces including maintenance of law and order across the country, provision of security at three printing presses in Islamabad and Karachi during printing of ballot papers and other material, safe transportation of polling material and security of polling staff and provision of secure environment on the polling day, through provision of security inside and outside the polling stations.

To a question, General Ghafoor rejected allegations leveled against a senior officer of Inter Services Intelligence by Captain (retd) Muhammad Safdar.

He said those leveling such allegations against Major General Faiz Hameed were not aware of the responsibilities and services of the officer in the war against terror.

To another question, he also said there was also no role of the ISI in the Multan incident in which a PML-N candidate was forced to change his loyalty.

Answering a question about the term ‘aliens’, the DG ISPR said such terms were coined during the election campaign.

“We are humankind and by the creation of Almighty Allah rendering sacrifices for country,” he said.

About allegations of pre-poll rigging, he said there were no elections in the past in which such allegations were not raised and political personalities did not change their loyalties.

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