We will ensure safety but sanctity of the elections is ECP’s responsibility: DG ISPR

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RAWALPINDI: While addressing a presser on elections and Armed Forces deployment involved in the exercise to carry out the mammoth task in a safe and secure manner, the DG ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor briefed about the entire process and how the Pak Armed forces are looking to tackle it.

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Ghafoor made it clear that the Army will ensure security and safety of the staff, polling stations, ballot boxes, transportation and people involved in the electoral process but the sanctity of the elections wholly and solely falls upon the election commission of Pakistan.

“I am constantly asked whether elections will be held or not but Pakistan is headed towards the general election.”

“This is the third election which will ensure the democratic process,” he said.

Explaining the army’s role in the July 25 general election, Major-General Ghafoor said, “The armed forces are not directly involved in conducting the election.”

“We have to support the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in the tasks they have sought our help with,” he continued.

He further added this is not the first time that troops will be deployed to overlook the election process. “The armed forces have rendered services during previous elections as well,” he upheld.

Regarding overlooking the process of the printing of ballot papers, DG ISPR clarified, “We only have to transport the ballot papers in a secure manner and will not be involved in anything else.”

“We will not take over the printing material, the ECP staff will handle that,” he asserted.

“In Rawalpindi we have established an army election support centre to coordinate and if needed communicate with ECP,” the DG ISPR said.

Maj-Gen Ghafoor further revealed that the ECP has issued a code of conduct for the military. “We are bound to implement a code of conduct issued by the ECP when executing our duties,” he said.

“Our top priority is to maintain peace and security in the country,” he upheld.

“We will carry out our duties in a non-political and impartial manner without any interference in the election process,” the DG ISPR maintained.

During his last press conference on June 4, DG ISPR had pointed to growing negative propaganda on social media against Pakistan and its institutions, including the army.

Major-General Ghafoor had said there had been an increase in social media accounts which were spewing anti-Pakistan and anti-army content against facts.

“We have the capability to monitor social media as to who is doing what,” the DG ISPR had said.

He had also spoken about the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) for the first time and had also briefed media regarding ceasefire violations by India.

The schedule released by ECP stated that from June 26th onward uptil July 1st, 28 trainers will will train around 1400 military personnel which would deal with overall security on the election day and looking after the electorates who would come to cast their votes in accordance with the designated constituency.

The summon of troop is to ensure free and transparent elections.

On Thursday, the Ministry of Defence had agreed to provide 350,000 troops for election duties as requested by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), sources informed Newsone on Thursday.

According to the sources, the defence ministry has decided to call back for the purpose army, air force and navy personnel who retired in the last two years.

Sources said the retired personnel will also enjoy complete powers that are given to serving military personnel on election duty.

The army will take over the security of the Printing Corporation of Pakistan, which published ballot papers, from June 27 whereas it will take up election duties four days before the July 25 polls.

The ECP had written a summary to the defence ministry seeking 350,000 troops for election duty, Newsone had reported on Wednesday.

Last week, the ECP had declared that army personnel would be posted inside and outside the polling stations as well as at the printing press from June 27 till polling day.

Though the army has been deployed to secure the general elections before, such a high number has never been seen earlier.

According to media reports, with 350,000 available personnel, the armed forces will be able to post two security officials inside and two outside the around 85,000 polling stations.

The Pakistan Army had also spared around 200,000 troops to conduct the Sixth Population and Housing Census of the country last year.

A fiery Question and Answer session  

A fiery, harsh and blunt question and answer session was also held post the briefing, media officials asked an array of questions which the DG ISPR noted down calmly.

Responding to a question regarding allegations that although polling may be transparent there are measures being taken to ensure it’s not a “level playing field,” the DG ISPR said, “Has there ever been an election in which at least one political party hasn’t alleged rigging?”

Regarding candidates being ‘forced’ to switch parties, the military spokesperson questioned, “Has there ever been an election in which candidates haven’t jumped ship?”

“Armed forces in the last 15 years has fulfilled its duties.”

“In 2013, there was a different environment and terrorists threatened to not allow politicians to campaign,” he said.

Further, the DG ISPR said, “Neither me nor our field commanders give their opinions on a daily basis but talk shows are held everyday from 7:00pm onwards where people share their opinions and say whatever they wish.”

“106 million Pakistanis will vote but is it possible for us to go to every citizen and tell them who to vote for?” he asked while answering a question regarding political engineering.

“Armed forces have a credibility and we cannot give a wrong order to a soldier risking his life for the nation,” he said while rejecting that the military is attempting to ‘influence’ the election.

On answering a question regarding a symbolic “Jeep” the election symbol of Chaudhry Nisar, Asif Ghafoor asked the media and others involved to stop with the conspiracy theories, he jokingly added “The jeep you are trying to pain in the Army colors is not the one shown in the symbol, those jeeps are more readily seen driven by civilian candidates.”

I am confident in the ECP’s abilities, they are determined to hold, free, fair and transparent elections.

The Army has grown a thick skin, we will not be bothered about abuses hurled at individuals, myself and my Institute but if someone looks to destabilize the country or is working on other nefarious agendas working against national interest.

Answering a question about banned and blacklisted political parties participating and electioneering freely, the DG said, If a party is formed and is registered there is a long process of scrutiny and checks and balances which are the responsibility of the ECP, if their is any meak decision making by the Election commission or if one deems a candidate or a party unfit and not favorable for the country they should ask questions from the ECP and as a last resort take to the courts and file cases and petitions.

Claiming that the environment in which 2013 general election was held was more difficult, DG ISPR said, “There was a different environment then and terrorists threatened to not allow politicians to campaign.”

Answering a question regarding the alleged role of ISI’s Major General Faiz Hamid in matters outside his domain, the army spokesperson dismissed the impression, stating that Maj-Gen Hamid has played an important role in combating terrorism and his detractors do not understand the scope of his post.

Further, the DG ISPR said, “Neither me nor our field commanders give their opinions on a daily basis but talk shows are held everyday from 7:00pm onwards where people share their opinions and say whatever they wish.”

“106 million Pakistanis will vote but is it possible for us to go to every citizen and tell them who to vote for?” he asked while answering a question regarding political engineering.

“Armed forces have a credibility and we cannot give a wrong order to a soldier risking his life for the nation,” he said while rejecting that the military is attempting to ‘influence’ the election.

Major-General Ghafoor further clarified that the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) had no role in the incident in Multan wherein an election hopeful was beaten up.

“Please stop looking at everything with suspicion,” he asserted.

We are God’s creation not Extraterrestrial Beings

Answering a question pertaining to PML(N) famous election slogan referring to the armed forces as ‘Aliens’, the DG said that the Armed forces are God’s people and creation, we are not into politics he re-iterated. We are not bothered with what a politician refers to them to rile and charge up crowds.

Answering a question about Imran Khan on whether the Army sees him in a favorable light or their is some friction between them, Ghafoor said he is not concerned with the choices of the people, who the people vote and choose is not his responsibility, his sole responsibility and the Armed Forces responsibility is to respect and listen to whoever the masses choose as their leader. Whosoever may that be.

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