Pakistan’s Cabinet Approves Army Deployment For Elections
In Islamabad, the federal cabinet on Tuesday gave its approval to a proposal requesting the deployment of military forces during the upcoming General Election 2024, scheduled for February 8. This decision follows the submission of a summary by the Ministry of Interior regarding the deployment of armed forces to ensure security and maintain law and order throughout the country during the crucial polls. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had earlier requested the deployment of 277,000 army personnel nationwide, considering the security challenges surrounding the elections where 126 million Pakistani voters are expected to choose their representatives.
The year 2023 has been marred by a surge in terror-related incidents, making it one of the most challenging years since 2015. As the General Election approaches, concerns about the safety and security of candidates and voters have escalated. Despite violent incidents and attacks targeting candidates, political parties are actively engaged in their election campaigns to attract voters. However, apprehensions about the law and order situation have prompted some politicians to seek a delay in the polls, further highlighting the prevailing uncertainty.
Recent incidents have underscored the security risks, including the tragic killing of independent candidate Kaleemullah Khan in North Waziristan, who was aspiring to contest polls for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly’s PK-104. In Swabi, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Shah Khalid fell victim to assailants on a motorcycle who opened fire on his car, resulting in his death. Notably, other political figures, such as Aslam Buledi from Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Mohsin Dawar from National Democratic Movement (NDM), and Lala Abdul Rasheed and Senator Kohda Akram Dashti from National Party, have also faced attacks in the ongoing month.
Given the precarious security situation, caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar has established a high-level committee tasked with overseeing security arrangements for the upcoming elections. Concurrently, the Pakistan Army has pledged to provide necessary military assistance for the polls. Personnel from the Pakistan Army, Rangers, and Frontier Constabulary (FC) are set to perform election duties on February 8.
The decision to seek military assistance stems from a critical shortage of security personnel, particularly in key election battlegrounds. Punjab, a crucial region in the electoral landscape, faces a shortage of 92,000 security personnel at polling stations. In Sindh, Karachi Police encounter a shortfall of 14,300 security personnel, further underscoring the need for military support to ensure the smooth and secure conduct of the General Election 2024.