ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Caretaker Interior Minister Sarfaraz Bugti on Friday pledged “maximum security” for the upcoming general election, scheduled for February 8, acknowledging that there were threats to politicians and public rallies.
The development comes amid a surge in militant attacks across in Pakistan’s western regions bordering Afghanistan ever since a fragile truce between Islamabad and the Pakistani Taliban broke down in November 2022.
Recently, the Jamiat Ulama-e-Islam Pakistan (JUI-F), a prominent religious party, urged the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to delay the polls till the security situation in the country improves and the cold in Pakistan’s northern areas dissipates.
Speaking at a press conference in Islamabad, Bugti said the caretaker government would fulfil all requirements of the election regulator for a peaceful conduct of the elections.
“Whatever requirement the election commission would have with regard to paramilitary forces, we will provide that,” he said. “We will try providing maximum security.”
The interior minister agreed there was a “general threat” to public rallies in the country, but no specific threat to a political leader, except for the JUI-F chief.
“Definitely, there are threats to the political leadership,” he said. “There is definitely a general threat to public rallies.”
The interior minister said the caretaker government had the “capacity and will” for the conduct of a peaceful election.
He, however, said the deployment of army was a domain of the country’s defense ministry.
Bugti’s statement came days after a senior ECP official requested the government for the deployment of armed forces at polling stations during the February 8 elections to ensure foolproof security arrangements.
“Keeping in view, the deficiency of Police personnel indicated by the Provinces and the Federal Capital, the Election Commission of Pakistan has decided that in view of the clear shortfall of 277,558 personnel, the services of Pakistan Army and Civil Armed Forces (CAFs) shall have to be requisitioned in static mode in terms of Article 220 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan at the Polling Stations to ensure smooth elections,” ECP Secretary Omar Hamid Khan wrote to the interior ministry.
“This is all the more relevant in the context of fragile security cum law-and-order situation prevalent in country.”
Khan said as per reports from inspector generals of police (IGPs) of all four provinces and Islamabad, there was a shortfall of around 4,500 police personnel in the capital city, 169,110 in Punjab, 56,717 in KP, 33,462 in Sindh, and 13,769 in Balochistan.
The regulator said as per Article 220 of Pakistan’s constitution, all executive authorities of the administration and the provinces were bound to assist the ECP in its task of holding free, fair and transparent elections.