- Difficult to conduct polls before operation completes, says Punjab IG.
- “Punjab Police needs 300,000 more personnel for election security.”
- Chief secretary says province needs Rs42bn for security amid polls.
Just a day after Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) police chief, Punjab Inspector-General of Police Dr Usman Anwar Wednesday informed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) about the challenge of conducting elections amid growing threats of terrorism in the province.
“A police operation, which will complete in four to five months, is ongoing in South Punjab’s rural areas and other districts of the province. It will be a difficult task to conduct elections until the operation is concluded,” he said while highlighting the threats of terrorism increasing in Punjab.
The IG’s comments came during a meeting at the ECP presided over by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja.
A day earlier, a similar meeting was held during which KP Police IG Moazzam Jah Ansari also communicated that the threat of terrorism cannot be ruled out during the upcoming election in the province.
The Punjab top police officer told participants of the meeting that 412,852 police personnel are required for security during the polls, as per the ECP, however, the force in Punjab comprises 11,5000. “300,000 more personnel in the force are required the services of Pakistan Army and Rangers will be needed to meet this shortfall.”
IG Anwar also said that 213 terror incidents were prevented from happening since December 2022 due to prior information. He added that almost all districts in the province have agency reports about terror incidents.
“Hotspot districts on top of the list include Lahore, Sheikhupura, Sahiwal, Gujranwala, Rawalpindi, Multan, Bahawalpur and Dera Ghazi Khan. Various terrorist groups are present in Bhakkar, Mianwali and Dera Ghazi Khan. These groups are regularly ‘formed’ comprising 20 to 30 people which arrive from Afghanistan and carry out terrorism,” he added.
Meanwhile, Punjab chief secretary Zahid Akhtar Zaman told the polls organising authority about the province’s need for Rs42 billion to maintain law and order during the elections. He also apprised the ECP about the provincial government’s financial issue.
At the same time, Zaman suggested conducting both the national and provincial assemblies’ elections on the same day. “If this is not possible, then by-elections of the National Assembly and provincial assembly polls should be held on the same day. If this is not done, the expenditure on elections will be twofold. In such a situation, law enforcement agencies won’t be able to provide foolproof security.”
The Punjab chief secretary also informed the meeting about initiating the preparation of a security plan and installation of CCTV cameras across all the sensitive polling stations. “There is a serious threat of terrorism in the province.”
He added that the month of Ramadan is arriving during elections in which administrative officers have to ensure price control and security arrangements in mosques for worshippers. Security of rallies and gatherings also has to be arranged amid polls, he further said.
“The census is being conducted in March during which administrative personnel, police officers and teachers will be busy. Meanwhile, examinations and the polio campaign will also be held at the same time, so availability of staff will be difficult,” he said while explaining that officers are also assigned duties during the season of purchasing wheat.