ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Interior Minister Malik Habib and Director General (DG) Military Operations Major General Ashfaq in a meeting on Saturday decided to deploy the army in sensitive areas across the country.

It was, however, the authority of the provincial governments to call out army personnel whenever required.

The caretaker interior minister rejected the proposal to deploy the army at all the polling stations to ensure law and order.

Meanwhile, while talking to the media after meeting the chief secretaries and inspector generals of police from all the provinces and representatives of the ECP and law enforcement agencies, the minister said the government could deploy the army during the general elections if the demand was made by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

The meeting deliberated upon the contingency plan to be in place during the elections to ensure safe polling and the security of voters.

The DG Military Operations said that the army would be on high alert as a rapid response force during the elections.

He said that holding of free, fair and timely elections was the top priority of the interim government. The minister said that the interim set-up would ensure that polls take place in a peaceful environment, adding security arrangements would be reviewed throughout the country in the countdown to the general polls.

He said that he would visit all the provinces to finalise the contingency plan. He disclosed that he would visit Balochistan next week.

“Display of weapons will not be allowed during general elections except in specific localities of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) where people faced security threats,” he said and clarified that in such areas too no one would be allowed to carry arms at the polling stations.

To a question, Malik Habib said the government would give stringent security cover to all the high profile leaders irrespective of their political affiliation. However, he said there was no information regarding threats to any political leaders.

During the meeting, the minister said that he had stressed the need for intelligence sharing at the grassroots level to avert any untoward incident.

He said that the army could be deployed in Hazara Town of Quetta and in sensitive areas of Karachi.

He said that he had issued orders to the IGPs of all the provinces to chalk out a security plan without succumbing to pressure from any quarter.

He said that the military leadership was conveyed that it would be unprofessional to deploy the army at all the polling stations as only one armyman could not ensure security. He said if any untoward situation occurred at a polling station, it would bring a bad name to the army.

Responding to a question, he said the government would not tolerate any lapse in maintaining peace in the country. He said that police and law enforcement agencies would be totally impartial during the election process.

The interior minister said that the nation would feel the impartiality of the caretaker government during the election process. He said that the whole nation was looking at the caretaker government and no leniency or negligence in maintaining law and order during polls would be tolerated.

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