Dr. Usman Anwar, Punjab’s Inspector-General of Police, informed the ECP of the growing threat of terrorism in the province and the difficulties involved in conducting peaceful elections.
The Punjab IGP, in a meeting presided over by the Chief Election Commissioner, Sikander Sultan Raja, explained that a police operation is currently underway in rural areas of South Punjab and other districts, and that conducting elections would be challenging until the operation is completed.
In order to ensure peaceful elections, the IGP estimates that 412,852 police personnel are necessary, but the current police force of 115,000 is insufficient. In order to cover this shortfall, the IGP stated that the Pakistan Army and Rangers would be required to provide their services.
He also shared that they had prevented 213 terror incidents since December 2022 and that there were reports of possible terrorist activities in almost all districts of the province, with hotspot districts including Lahore, Sheikhupura, Sahiwal, Gujranwala, Rawalpindi, Multan, Bahawalpur and Dera Ghazi Khan. Several terrorist groups are active in Bhakkar, Mianwali, and Dera Ghazi Khan. Typically, these groups consist of 20 to 30 individuals who arrive from Afghanistan and conduct acts of terrorism.
Given the financial constraints faced by the government, the province’s chief secretary, Zahid Akhtar Zaman, informed the ECP that Rs42 billion would be required to maintain law and order during the elections. He also suggested conducting both national and provincial assemblies’ elections on the same day, and that the installation of CCTV cameras at all sensitive polling stations and the preparation of a security plan were underway.
The chief secretary further explained the challenges faced during the election period, including the arrival of Ramadan, the necessity of ensuring security arrangements in mosques, rallies, and gatherings, the ongoing census, and other simultaneous events such as examinations and a polio campaign, which would make the availability of staff difficult.
As a result, the ECP has been made aware of the potential security risks as well as the logistical challenges associated with conducting peaceful elections in Punjab. The authorities are working to put in place measures to ensure the safety of citizens and the smooth functioning of the electoral process.