ECP to ensure polls on Feb 8 come what may, says minister after security huddle

Caretaker Interior Minister Gohar Ejaz says polls to be staged on designated under any circumstances

Security personnel stand guard at the headquarters of the Election Commission of Pakistan in Islamabad on September 21, 2023. — AFP
Security personnel stand guard at the headquarters of the Election Commission of Pakistan in Islamabad on September 21, 2023. — AFP

ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Interior Minister Gohar Ejaz Thursday put to rest all the doubts regarding any delay in the upcoming general elections, saying that the poll  would be held on February 8 under any circumstances. 

The security situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Balochistan provinces created concerns regarding the conduct of elections.

“Elections will be held on February 8, no one should have any confusion on this,” the interim minister told the journalists after the electoral body’s meeting.

He said that the election commission will ensure the conduct of the polls on the designated date come what may. 

With a deteriorating law and order situation just days ahead of the general elections, a key meeting took place at the ECP today, with caretaker interior minister, Interior Secretary Aftab Durrani, intelligence officials as well as chief secretaries and police chiefs of Balochistan and KP in attendance.

The meeting had discussions focusing on the situation in the two provinces.

Attacks on political rallies, offices and candidates, alongside terror incidents, have seen a surge, particularly in the two restive provinces, for the last few weeks.

During the meeting, the electoral authority was given a briefing on the state of law and order in the two provinces by the officials.

In the wake of the murder of Rehan Zeb Khan — an independent candidate contesting for National Assembly seat from Bajaur, NA-8 — the ECP directed the provincial chief secretary and inspector general of police to submit a comprehensive report of the incident, an official said.

Zeb, a PTI youth activist, was gunned down by unidentified armed assailants, who opened fire on him in his hometown Bajaur on Wednesday.

According to media and monitoring teams’ reports, taking notice of the incidents of firing on a convoy of a political party in Qila Abdullah district of Balochistan in which one person was killed and a grenade attack outside the house of a candidate of PB-25 constituency in Kech district, the ECP has sought immediate reports from the chief secretary and IG Balochistan. It directed for immediate action to be taken against those involved.

Meanwhile, the ECP also took notice of the bomb attack at the election office of a political party in Quetta and sought an immediate report from the Balochistan chief secretary and inspector general of police. It also directed for taking action against the culprits under the election laws.

Meanwhile, a day after a deadly blast ripped through Balochistan’s Sibi, the United States issued a condemnation of the attack that reportedly killed at least four people and injured several others.

The US State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs said the attack “undermines the electoral process”.

Though there were reports of four casualties in the blast, the State Department’s post on X, formerly Twitter, stated that the explosion killed “10 people”.

“The US strongly condemns the attack on PTI party rally in Sibi killing 10 people, which undermines the electoral process. Pakistani people have the right to choose their leader without fear for the country’s stability and prosperity. Our deepest sympathies to those affected,” the post read.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has strongly condemned the attacks on the party’s election office in Quetta, Khuzdar and the residences of candidates in Turbat.

Taking to X, on Wednesday, the young politician wrote: “ I have just been informed of a 3rd grenade attack on the resident of Agha Shakeel Durrani Pakistan Peoples Party’s PB-19 candidate and former district Mayor Khuzdar, Balochistan. I hope and pray no one is hurt.”

He added that two PPP candidates former minister Zahoor Buledi and Haji Ali Madad Jattak were targeted in two separate grenade attacks in Balochistan. “I condemn this terrorism in the strongest terms. InshaAllah on Feb 8th we will bury the politics of violence, hate and division at the ballot box. We are the party of martyrs.” He said that the PPP cannot and will not be intimidated by cowardly terrorists.

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