=> LAHORE, Feb 11: The Punjab government has set itse -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

=> LAHORE, Feb 11: The Punjab government has set itse

LAHORE, Feb 11: The Punjab government has set itself a target of recruiting 125,000 people for a ‘special police’ force that will assist the 100,000 regular police officials to maintain law and order at 7,636 polling stations across the province during the general election on Feb 18, Dawn has learnt.

The district police are recruiting retired officials of army, para-military forces and the police for election duty.

The decision to recruit additional force, sources said, is in line with the directions of Punjab IGP Ahmed Nasim to ensure peaceful atmosphere for voters on the polling day.

Opposition parties had expressed suspicion about the role of the special police, claiming the government planned to use them for poll-day rigging.

The Central Police Office, through an advertisement, had invited the retired officials to approach police lines of the district concerned with pension papers, discharge certificates and identity cards for the purpose.

In addition, some 45,000 troops of Pakistan Army and Rangers would also be deployed, sources told Dawn on Monday.

Police officials in all 35 districts in Punjab had been asked to recruit people for the special force for three days on Rs225 per day. Sources said they would achieve the target by Wednesday (tomorrow), even though they had until Feb 16 to complete the job.

Special police would include at least 30,000 Police Qaumi Razakars, some 3,000 to 4,000 retired army and police officials, 40,000 security employees of provincial departments and Civil Defence officials, they said.

It was also learnt that local youths, “having no political affiliation” and criminal record, was also being called for election duty in each district by the police.

Sources said only those retired government officials were being inducted in the special police who had not been dismissed from service and who had no political affiliation.

A senior police officer said the Police Act 1861 and Police Order 2002 had a provision for the constitution of a special force to help police and law enforcement agencies in the general election.

PPP central secretary-general Jehangir Badr said hiring of retired government officials as special police was aimed at influencing the elections on polling day.

“The government will use non-uniformed retired personnel for polling staff duty and meddling with ballot boxes to deceive the voters and local and international observers,” he said.

“As far as law and order is concerned, the police could be assisted by the army and its related paramilitary forces.”

Complaining about pre-poll rigging, Mr Badr said the returning officer in the NA-120 constituency from where he is contesting had changed 126 polling staff, including 10 presiding officers, in violation of election rules.

He alleged that the process of establishing ghost polling stations and reshuffling of polling stations against the declared ones was in progress.

Citing one such example, the PPP leader said a ghost polling station was set up at Awami Flats in Rajgarh.

Similarly, he alleged that two polling stations, PS-80 and PS-105, had been converted into PS-13 and PS-38, respectively.

Central finance secretary of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the winner from NA-120 in 2002, Pervez Malik, also criticised the measure which he described as ad hoc.

He said even if it was to be conceded that the government needed help from this special force, the officials had no time to check on the credentials of the people they were going to recruit.

Chief Secretary Salman Siddique told Dawn this force would only beef up security and the main deployment for law and order would be police, rangers and army.
Source: Dawn
Date:2/12/2008