Home Election Interior minister asserts polls on Feb 8 to proceed despite circumstances, following ECP meeting

Interior minister asserts polls on Feb 8 to proceed despite circumstances, following ECP meeting

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ISLAMABAD: Following a pivotal meeting of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) regarding the security concerns in Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Caretaker Interior Minister Dr Gohar Ejaz said on Thursday that the elections would be held on February 8 “come what may.”

The development comes a day after the assassination of a National Assembly independent candidate in Bajaur district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the killing of an ANP activist in Balochistan’s Qilla Abdullah.

A sudden spurt in violence — just eight days before the general elections — also saw a grenade attack on the election campaign office of PPP candidate, Ali Madad Jatak, on Quetta’s Sariab Road. A similar grenade attack was carried out at the residence of another PPP candidate, Mir Zahoor Buledi, in Kech district of Balochistan.

On Tuesday, a bomb blast on a main road in Balochistan’s Sibi during an election rally led by Saddam Tareen, a PTI-affiliated independent candidate for NA-253 (Ziarat) constituency, leaving at least four people dead and five others injured.

“There should be no ambiguity in anyone’s mind about the elections [on February 8]. The ECP and the caretaker government will ensure the conduct of elections, and they will take place on February 8 under all circumstances,” he said while speaking to the media following the ECP meeting.

The meeting, chaired by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja, saw the participation of key officials, including Secretary Election Commission Dr Asif Hussain, Caretaker Interior Minister Gohar Ejaz, Interior Secretary Aftab Akbar Durrani, chief secretaries of Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, and inspector generals.

Representatives from intelligence agencies were also present to provide briefings on the security situation. Gohar presented a comprehensive overview of the security conditions in Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, with reports placed before the ECP officials.

The interior minister said that the incidents of lawlessness in Balochistan and K-P were aimed at creating fear among the masses.

He said that the security agencies have implemented robust security arrangements in all four provinces and people should cast their votes with confidence as the elections will strengthen stability in the country.

Ejaz further commented on events in Balochistan, clarifying, “The incidents occurring in Balochistan are not related to the elections but are acts of terrorism. There is no political polarisation in Balochistan; our major challenge in Balochistan is terrorism, and the security agencies are commendably protecting the country.”

Meanwhile, CEC Sultan, while talking to the media, said that the meeting was held to assess the preparations for the upcoming elections, focusing on the security of candidates and voters.

He said that the meeting addressed the security concerns related to elections in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, adding that security measures are actively being implemented to ensure the safety of candidates and voters.

He said that the elections are scheduled to take place nationwide on February 8, and there is no ambiguity regarding its date. He clarified that the ECP does not have the authority to control the internet in extraordinary situations or sensitive areas. “According to the security agencies, the internet will be available in the country on the election day,” he added.

Terming the security situation in Balochistan and K-P “not normal”, he said that the law enforcement agencies are fully committed to their efforts, and the inspector generals of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan have assured candidates of enhanced security.

Meanwhile, the ECP, while taking notice of the blasts in Quetta, Turbat and Jaffarabad, has sought immediate report from Chief Secretary and Inspector General of Police Balochistan in this regard.

The CEC, while taking notice of the aerial firing in the election campaign of a political party in Sukkur, has sought immediate report from the Chief Secretary and Inspector General Sindh.

The CEC also directed the IG Sindh Police to take action against those involved in the incident as per law of the land.