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Rediff News  All News  » News » Pak army to deploy 50,000 troops to secure May 11 polls

Pak army to deploy 50,000 troops to secure May 11 polls

March 28, 2013 14:54 IST

The Pakistan army will deploy about 50,000 troops across the country to secure the general election process on May 11, which is facing a ‘massive terrorist threat’ from the Taliban and other terrorist groups.

The interior ministry has warned of a ‘massive terrorist threat’ during the elections as banned groups like Jandullah, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan were  planning to carry out large-scale attacks in Balochistan province, especially in Quetta and Nushki.

The Taliban are reportedly planning suicide and bomb attacks on important government buildings and installations in Peshawar. Taliban fighters based at Mirali in the tribal areas might carry out attacks in Khanewal, Multan and other areas of Punjab.

Intelligence reports suggested attacks on government and semi-government buildings, installations and security personnel were also possible, the Dawn newspaper quoted its sources as saying.

A presentation made during a meeting between officials of the interior ministry and the election commission focussed on the threats to the polls, the report said.

A decision to deploy around 50,000 troops for security duties during the general election was made during a meeting of the Pakistan army's corps commanders on Wednesday, The News daily today quoted a top military source as saying.

The meeting, chaired by army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, deliberated on preparations for providing security and maintaining law and order during the polls. "The deployment of troops along with lakhs of police (and Pakistan) rangers and the security network will provide security during the elections," an unnamed senior official said.

The election commission secretary Ishtiaq Ahmed visited the army's general headquarters in Rawalpindi twice to discuss the security plan and to identify areas where the poll panel wants the military to maintain law and order for smooth conduct of the elections.

An official said the military wanted the ‘categorisation of polling stations’ and that soldiers would be deployed only at sensitive polling stations.

According to an estimate, there are around 24,000 polling stations where soldiers will be posted. During the last general election in 2008, a total of 38,000 troops were deployed at 21,000 polling stations that were declared sensitive.

During the meeting between the officials of the interior ministry and the election commission, authorities said the Balochistan Republican army too was planning to carry out attacks with improvised explosive devices in Dera Bugti, Naseerabad and Jaffarabad.

Usman Saifullah Kurd, a commander of the LeJ in Balochistan, was planning attacks in Islamabad. The meeting was informed that recent fighting among the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Islam and pro-government Ansar-ul-Islam in Khyber Agency might pose problems in the tribal areas, Peshawar and settled districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

The meeting decided to set up a joint task group comprising representatives of the police, Inter-Services Intelligence, intelligence bureau, military intelligence, security agencies and the election commission.

The group will meet regularly to review security arrangements based on threat assessments. The meeting also discussed security problems related to the transportation of ballot papers, candidates, observers and election commission staff.

As maintaining law and order was the responsibility of provinces, they were asked to send their demand security personnel. The interior ministry will provide two helicopters to each province for aerial surveillance a few days before the polls.

At the request of the provinces, the ministry will coordinate with the Pakistan telecommunication authority to suspend mobile phone services in areas where there was a possibility of terror attacks.

The meeting decided Islamabad Police in the federal capital and Pakistan Rangers, Frontier Corps and provincial police would be responsible for the security of foreign observers and foreign media.

Army chief Gen Kayani, during his first meeting with caretaker Prime Minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso, had reiterated his force’s commitment to assisting the government in holding free, fair and safe polls.

Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad