Pakistan takes ‘every possible step’ for peaceful polls

February 16th, 2008 - 8:01 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Benazir Bhutto
By Muhammad Najeeb
Islamabad, Feb 16 (IANS) The Pakistan government has deployed about 81,000 troops of the army throughout the country, with focus on areas that have been identified as sensitive, to counter threats of violence and terrorism on the polling day Monday, says the caretaker interior minister. “Every possible step has been taken to ensure peaceful elections,” caretaker Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz Khan told mediapersons Saturday after briefing European Union observers on the country’s 10th general elections to the national and four provincial parliaments.

He said security arrangements have also been made to provide safe and secure environment to local and foreign observers to facilitate them in pursuance of their professional duties.

More than 1,000 observers and journalists are in Pakistan to monitor the Feb 18 elections that were delayed after the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

The interior minister said the observers would be free to visit any polling station except those declared sensitive due to law and order concerns.

He said that besides the army troops, the government has deployed police and paramilitary personnel across the country.

Giving a break-up, he said the government has deployed 130,000 police personnel in Punjab, 100,000 in Sindh, 50,000 in North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and 25,000 in Balochistan to ensure the security around the poling stations.

The election campaign in the country remained colourless mainly because of the security situation and threats of violence. More than 400 people have been killed in several suicide attacks and bomb blasts in the run-up to the elections.

A very few rallies by various parties were held under strict security after Bhutto’s assassination who died in a gun and blast attack minutes after addressing an election rally Dec 27.

The minister said the concerned provinces would provide accreditation cards to the foreign observers and mediapersons and guide them regarding the elections coverage.

He clarified that the foreign nationals will not be restricted to the cities and they would be allowed to visit villages too.

He said besides police personnel, the government has also called huge contingents of Rangers, Coast Guards, Frontier Corps, Frontier Constabulary and police personnel from Azad Kashmir and Northern Areas.

The government would take stern action against the people getting involved in any unlawful activity during polls. The Election Commission can also take action against such miscreants, he added.

The minister said neither the ministry has issued any orders regarding arrest or house arrest of anyone nor there is any bar on the lawyers under house arrest to cast their vote.

He said the government has so far not received any threat regarding any suicide or bomb attacks, adding that the government was ready to counter any terrorist activity.

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