ECP has declared 20,831 polling stations sensitive and in each polling station two personnel of Pakistan army will remain present on the polling day on July 25. “Two security officials will be present inside and two outside the sensitive polling stations, while deployment will be lower at non-sensitive polling stations,” says a military official.
In total, there will be 85,307 polling stations, set up inside 48,500 buildings as more than one station may exist in the same building. A total of 371,388 security forces officials will be deployed for election duty.
This will include regular on service army troops as well as retired personnel who would be called back for duty on the polling-day. Army deployment will start three days before the polling day.
It is not clear what role the army personnel deployed inside the sensitive polling stations will be playing. Both military officials and ECP authorities have clarified that army troops would not be involved in any kind of activity related to the process of vote counting or processing of results. Army troops will be providing security to the polling stations, polling staff and election material, including ballot papers and ballot boxes.
The Awami National Party (ANP) has formally opposed the idea of deploying army troops inside the polling station, saying it would reinforce the allegations of rigging. Leaders of most political parties have expressed reservations, off-the-record, on army’s deployment on election day inside and outside the polling stations.
“The armed forces will only support the electoral process and have no direct role in the conduct of elections,” says Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, military spokesman.
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Two major political parties, PML-N and PPP, have accused serving military personnel to be involved in pre-poll rigging and have also alleged that senior intelligence officers are harassing their voters and candidates. Other political parties have expressed concerns that the military establishment has favourites in the election process and that it might go out of the way to help its favourite. That may lead to loss of credibility and legitimacy of the election process.