Interim Interior Minister Gohar Ejaz on Tuesday said the government had not yet decided to suspend internet services on polling day, adding authorities will consider the measure if they get a request for the same from any district or province to ensure security on Feb. 8.
“So far, there has been no decision made regarding the suspension of internet services at any place,” he told a press conference in Islamabad alongside interim Information Minister Murtaza Solangi, who had uttered similar remarks a day earlier. However, interim Balochistan Information Minister Jan Achakzai announced on Sunday that internet services would remain suspended in “sensitive” areas on election day.
Discussing the prevailing law and order situation, Ejaz said the caretakers were striving to ensure peaceful elections without any loss of life. “The election atmosphere in Sindh is full of excitement and it does not seem that any political party has enmity with another,” he said, referring to recent incidents of violence in the province, particularly in Karachi. “The parties contesting the polls in Sindh have known each other for years,” he said, adding he had similarly witnessed no tensions between candidates in Balochistan during a visit last week.
According to the interim interior minister, the government would ensure security on Feb. 8 through three designated categories. “Commandos will be deployed in Balochistan to respond in the shortest possible time,” he said, while police, civil armed forces and Army troops would ensure the protection of citizens elsewhere. “We will not let anyone raise an eyebrow against the integrity and independence of Pakistan,” he added.
Ejaz said around 40,000 of the 90,777 polling stations nationwide were deemed “normal” and did not require stringent security. However, he said, 20,985 have been declared ‘sensitive,’ and 16,766 ‘most sensitive.’ Overall, he said, seven to eight law enforcement officials would be deployed at every polling station in the country, adding over 137,000 law enforcers have been deployed nationwide.
“Pakistan Army troops will be deployed as quick reaction force,” he said.
To a question on voter safety in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, which has borne the brunt of terrorism in recent weeks, he urged citizens to come out and exercise their right on Feb. 8. It is the government’s duty, he stressed, to ensure the protection of every citizen.