Officials give final touches to Pakistan poll preparations

February 17th, 2008 - 9:08 pm ICT by admin  

By Muhammad Najeeb
Islamabad, Feb 17 (IANS) Pakistan’s Election Commission and political parties gave final touches to arrangements for the crucial 10th general elections Monday. More than 80 million people are eligible to vote and elect members for the national and provincial parliaments. “Nobody will be allowed to create a law and order situation anywhere in the country,” caretaker information minister Nisar Memon said Sunday as the security forces were put on high alert after Saturday’s blast in tribal areas that killed 47 people.

Reports said security forces guarding about 3,000 polling stations have been instructed to shoot at site any miscreants.

More than 85,000 army personnel have been deployed throughout the country, besides police and paramilitary troops, to watch over 64,000 polling stations set up for 272 national assembly and over 600 provincial assembly constituencies.

“Polling material is being handed over to presiding officers throughout the country,” Election Commission secretary Kanwar M. Dilshad told IANS.

He said the material for the far-flung polling stations has already been sent while in city areas it will be distributed early Monday morning amid security.

The polling will start at 8.00 a.m. and will continue till 5 p.m. Voters inside the polling stations at 5 p.m. will be allowed to cast their votes, said the secretary.

He said that security is mainly the responsibility of the interior ministry and provincial governments. But the presiding officers have been given the powers of a magistrate and they can hand over to police and punish anyone creating hurdles in peaceful polling.

Political parties have set up their camp offices throughout the country and nominated their “political agents” who will be authorised to stay inside the polling stations and will be present during the counting of ballots.

For the first time, the presiding officers at polling stations have been authorised to make the results of polling stations public soon after the counting.

The polling officers will after the final count hand over copies of the results of the respective polling stations to the polling agents of the candidates and will also display these outside the polling stations.

However, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has warned the TV channels not to announce results until they are signed and declared by the polling officers.

The direction came after some TV channels said they would announce trends during the counting. The major TV channels in Pakistan have fielded their reporters in almost all constituencies and plan to report the trends during the vote count.

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