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No direct involvement of Army in the conduct of elections: ISPR

20 July, 2018

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ISLAMABAD: Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor on Thursday told a parliamentary body that army had no direct involvement in the conduct of elections.

“There are some rumours that army personnel had been issued different orders … this is completely baseless,” he informed a special session of the Senate Standing Committee on Interior. “We do not have any link with the elections … we are only working on the Election Commission’s directives to improve law and order situation. We do not have a direct role in polls,” he clarified, adding that troops are liable to follow the electoral body’s code of conduct.

Stressing on complying with the ECP’s code of conduct, the DG ISPR said the troops also have to perform the police duties until the latter’s capabilities improve. “We took extraordinary measures when polls were held in Afghanistan. Now the Afghan president has also assured the prime minister and army chief of cooperation,” he said.

The DG ISPR clarified that there was no hindrance in communication with the electoral body. He elaborated the election duty assigned to the army personnel, saying, “The armed forces have always lent support to the civil institutions. The security situation is being improved in the entire country to hold elections. Three hundred and seventy one thousand army soldiers will be deployed at the countrywide polling stations. The army is also performing its duty at the printing press.”

When asked by PML-N Senator Kulsoom Parveen to disclose the number of troops being deployed in Balochistan, the DG ISPR said, “Leave the planning side to us; we know how many troops have to be deployed where. We have analysed every place from security point of view. We have made deployments as per need in Balochistan.”

Maj Gen Ghafoor, however, made it clear that the army’s role in providing security for elections did not mean that it would also take direct responsibility for the wellbeing of politicians as well. “The army is not taking direct responsibility for the security of any politician,” he said. “The security of political candidates is the responsibility of the government of Pakistan and the ECP. We are assisting the election commission for security during polling.

The session was presided over by committee chairperson Senator Rehman Malik. Federal interior and defence secretaries, secretary ECP and several other government officials also attended.

In the same session, ECP Secretary Babar Yaqoob also gave a briefing over army’s electoral duties among other things. “A total of 800,000 security officials and 700,000 ECP staff will perform their duties,” he said. “Bearing in mind the events of 2013, the ECP took the decision to deploy army. We are grateful to the army. Their officers are also being trained. The army’s help was also obtained to keep a watch on ballot papers during the printing process.”

Yaqoob denied that army personnel would have a free role at the polling stations. “A perception has been created that the army personnel would have a free role – this is wrong,” he said. “The army personnel will work under the presiding officers at the polling stations.”

Replying a question, the ECP secretary said that all the symbols were allotted on the request of candidates by returning officers. He said that the election symbol of grave has not been allotted to any candidate and the poster being circulated on social media is fake.

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