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September 29, 2015

Deployment of army for Punjab by-polls not unusual

National

September 29, 2015

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), constantly battered by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), has accepted its demand by ordering deployment personnel of the Pakistan army and Rangers for high-profile by-elections in Punjab.
The decision came just five days before the PTI will hold a public rally in the federal capital, demanding ouster of the four ECP members. A serious rift presently exists between the PTI and the Islamabad administration over the venue of the show.
“The involvement of the army and Rangers by the ECP to perform law and order duty has nothing to do with the upcoming PTI protest,” an official told The News.
He said that the ECP had directed the deployment of the army in the local council elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) held this year and in the by-poll to the National Assembly constituency NA-19 Haripur. Therefore, the present decision is not unusual.
“When we receive such demands and we also believe that it is advisable to take assistance from the army and other paramilitary forces in order to ensure fairness and transparency of the electoral exercise, we take such decisions,” the official said.
For quite some time, the PTI has been pressing this demand saying that since the Punjab police are partisan, it has no confidence in the force.
However, immediately after the unfolding of the schedule for the by-elections, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) offered that it has no reservation or objection whatsoever to any measures that may be put in place as demanded by the PTI so that it doesn’t later dispute the objectivity of the electoral process. The PML-N is unlikely to articulate any opposition to the ECP move.
In its decision, the ECP has cited the “volatile” law and order situation and the demands of the political parties, the provincial election commissioner of Punjab, and the concerned district returning officer (DRO) and ROs.
There are only two principal contestants – PML-N

and PTI - in the forthcoming by-polls. While the PML-N has not aired the demand of the deployment of the army for the election duty, the PTI has been vigorously highlighting it.
The acceptance of the PTI demand by the ECP is unlikely to shave off its hostility and lack of trust in the electoral body because in any case it wants the exit of the ECP members. But the ECP that includes the same four ECP members has taken the instant decision. With the same composition, the ECP had organized the local polls in KP and the subsequent by-election to NA-19.
PTI Chairman Imran Khan emitted fire for days when the Supreme Court suspended a ruling of the Lahore High Court (LHC) that had declared null and void a clause of the election code, which had barred the federal and provincial lawmakers, the president, the prime minister and chief ministers and their cabinet members from campaigning in the elections.
Although the PTI chief was satisfied and relaxed after the LHC permitted the lawmakers to take part in the electioneering, his anger towards the ECP has not come down as he is going ahead with his October 4 public meeting in Islamabad.
The Rangers had been given the election duty in the by-poll to NA-246 Karachi that the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) had convincingly won and the PTI had lost. Due to the presence of the paramilitary force, there were no hue and cry about the fairness and transparency of the by-elections. Same was the case about NA-19. There is a strong likelihood that the involvement of the army and Rangers in the Punjab by-elections will finish the chances of protests mainly by the PTI about the elections.