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‘Security of Politicians in Polls not Army’s Responsibility’

In the run-up to the general elections in Pakistan, Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asif Ghafoor on Thursday clarified that the Army will not be directly responsible for the security of any politician.

Addressing a special session of the Senate Standing Committee on Interior, General Ghafoor clarified that the army personnel are only following instructions given by the Election Commission of Pakistan.

“The army is not taking direct responsibility for the security of any politician. 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 Dawn quoted General Ghafoor, as saying.

He further clarified that the Army has no direct link with the elections or the outcome.

“There were some rumours that army personnel had been issued ‘different’ orders – this is completely baseless. We do not have any link with the elections; we are only working on the election commission’s directives to improve the law and order situation. We do not have a direct role in polls,” General Ghafoor said.

The DG ISPR further noted that all security arrangements were being made to ensure seamless election procedure.

“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 [for ballots],” he added.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Senator Kulsoom Parveen demanded a blueprint of security arrangements deployed in Balochistan, in the wake of a suicide blast that killed nearly 130 people less than ten days ago.

In response, General Ghafoor assured that all deployments have been made after thorough analysis.

“Leave the planning side to us; we know how many troops have to be deployed where. We have analysed every place from a security point of view. We have made deployments as per the need in Balochistan. Unfortunately, until the police’s abilities improve, we will also have to do police duty,” he added.

Speaking of coordination with Afghanistan, the DG ISPR stated that poll-bound Pakistan has been assured of mutual support from Afghanistan in terms of security.

“When the elections took place in Afghanistan, we took extraordinary measures on this side of the border. This time, the Afghan president phoned Pakistan prime minister and the army chief to assure us of their cooperation,” he said.

Meanwhile, ECP Secretary Babar Yaqoob, who was present at the same event, noted that deployments are being made adequately for the upcoming polls.

“A total of 800,000 security officials and 700,000 ECP staff will perform their duties. 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,” he said.

However, Yaqoob noted that army personnel would not have a free role at the polling booths.

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

The ECP Secretary also noted that security arrangements have been beefed up inside and outside the polling stations, on account of alleged security threats to polling stations.

On a related note, Pakistan will go to polls on July 25.

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