Islamabad, February 7: Nearly 650,000 security personnel have been deployed across poll-bound Pakistan as authorities were busy setting up polling stations to enable more than 12.85 crore registered voters to cast their ballot in the general election on Thursday. Stepped-up security is imperative given the spree of violence with the latest being two devastating bomb blasts targeting election offices on Wednesday in the restive Balochistan province that saw at least 25 people killed and more than 40 others injured.
Radio Pakistan reported that about 6,50,000 security personnel have been deployed on the ground to ensure the security of the voters. These include the personnel of police, civil armed forces, and the armed forces. Under a three-tiered system, the personnel of the armed forces will perform duties outside the polling stations. Polling will begin at 8.00 am on Thursday and continue without any interval till 5.00 pm. Balochistan Blast: 25 Killed, Over 40 Injured As Two Separate Explosions Target Election Candidates Ahead of Pakistan General Polls
According to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), a total of 12,85,85,760 registered voters were eligible to vote from among 5,121 candidates for the National Assembly seats, including 4,807 male, 312 female, and two trans-genders. For the four provincial assemblies, 12,695 candidates are in the field, including 12,123 males, 570 women, and two trans-genders. The process of transporting the ballot boxes, ballot papers, and special screens to guard the secrecy of ballots when they are stamped before putting inside the transparent ballot boxes and other relevant election material was going on smoothly at district and sub-district levels across the country.
“The process will be completed by the evening and the presiding officers, who have already been given special powers of a magistrate, will take the material to the polling stations in the security of police and army,” an ECP official told PTI. The ECP has already delivered around 260 million ballot papers across the country to the district returning officers even as thousands of presiding officers along with supporting staff were collecting election material, including ballot papers for their district, from their relevant returning officers.
A countrywide public holiday was declared already to enable registered voters to cast their vote without any hindrance. The voters are required to bring their original Computerized National Identity Cards to cast the vote. ECP statistics showed that Punjab has the most number of 7,32,07,896 registered voters followed by Sindh with 2,69,94,769, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with 2,19,28,119, Balochistan with 53,71,947 and Federal Capital Islamabad 10,83,029. Pakistan Peoples Party Tops with Most Public Rallies Ahead of General Elections
The ECP set up 9,07,675 polling stations nationwide, including 25,320 for male voters, 23,952 for females, and another 41,403 as mixed polling stations. It said that 44,000 polling stations were normal while 29,985 were declared as sensitive, and 16,766 as highly sensitive. Elaborate security measures have been taken with the deployment of police, paramilitary forces personnel, and regular army troops to provide security due to the threat of attacks by militant groups.
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), the telecom regulator, rejected rumours that internet services would be cut off on the day of the election. “Internet facility will be available to users on the voting day and will work without any interruption,” said the PTA. Meanwhile, in Peshawar in the restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province, provincial Election Commissioner Shamshad Khan told media persons that there are 713 candidates in the run for the national assembly seat while 1,814 will try their luck for 142 seats of the KPK Assembly in the elections. The number of most sensitive polling stations is 4,178 while the number of sensitive polling stations is 5,925 in the province, he said.