Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja on Thursday maintained that general elections will proceed as planned on Feb. 8 despite prevailing security challenges, particularly in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.
During a meeting to review the worsening law and order situation in both provinces—which have seen multiple attacks on candidates in the past week—Raja said the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was fully prepared to hold elections on time.
Expressing concern over the deteriorating law and order situation in KP and Balochistan, he said terrorism was a primary threat to the electoral process, but expressed his full confidence in security forces’ capability to effectively manage the situation. He also stressed on the need to ensure a safe and peaceful environment for political parties, candidates and voters to enable them to participate in the electoral process without any fear.
The CEC similarly urged law enforcement agencies to deter any elements seeking to hamper the election, especially during the counting process and declaration of results.
The meeting, attended by the caretaker interior minister, interior secretary, director general of the Intelligence Bureau, chief secretaries and police chiefs of KP and Balochistan, representatives of other agencies, ECP’s secretary and other senior officials, reviewed the overall law and order situation and its impact on next week’s election.
According to a statement, interim Interior Minister Gohar Ejaz informed the participants he had just visited Balochistan and reviewed the security situation. He emphasized both the federal and provincial governments were fully prepared to ensure peaceful elections. “All preparations in this regard are complete, and full cooperation and resources will be provided to the Election Commission for the conduct of the general elections, and there will be no negligence at any level in this regard,” he said.
Officials from KP and Balochistan, meanwhile, detailed the prevailing law and order situation as well as measures underway to ensure the safe and peaceful conduct of general elections. The Balochistan chief secretary and police chief said the provincial administration and security agencies were fully alert and ready to fight terrorism. They updated the ECP on the ongoing operation against terrorists in the province and vowed no political or non-political force would be allowed to hamper the process.
Their counterparts from KP also highlighted security measures taken to fight threats risking the electoral process, adding that authorities were prepared to handle all possibilities.
Addressing media after the meeting, the CEC said the ECP would use an Election Management System (EMS) to tabulate results, assuring it would function even if loss of internet connectivity occurred.
To a question, he said ballot papers were reprinted in several constituencies due to court orders. He also maintained that that the ECP had ensured a level playing field for all political parties and submitted a report to the Supreme Court verifying this.