ECP wants CCTV cameras at all polling stations in NA-120

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Wednesday directed the chief secretary of Punjab to make arrangements for installation of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras at all polling stations in the National Assembly’s constituency NA-120 (Lahore) before the Sept 17 by-election.

According to an official announcement, the ECP issued the directives after receiving a request in this regard from the army, which has been asked to perform security duties during the by-poll.

The NA seat fell vacant after disqualification of Nawaz Sharif as a result of the Supreme Court’s July 28 verdict in the Panama Papers case.

The ECP had sought the army’s assistance after declaring the whole constituency ‘sensitive’ and on the demands of opposition parties.

Meanwhile, the commission had received response from the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) to its query regarding missing biometric data of about 29,000 voters of NA-120, according to an ECP official.

He said Nadra had told them that they did not have biometric record of 22,000 people who had obtained computerised national identity cards (CNICs) before 2005 when the authority did not have a biometric verification system in place. Moreover, Nadra does not have biometric information also about 2,200 voters possessing National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (Nicop).

The commission had sent the query to Nadra last month after analysing complete data of voters in NA-120, where it plans to test-run biometric verification machines at selected polling stations.

Earlier in the day, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi, during a meeting with ECP Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Mohammad, complained about what he called violation of the election code of conduct by members of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

Mr Qureshi told Dawn that he had asked the ECP secretary to take action against those PML-N legislators who had been openly violating the code of conduct that barred all public office-holders, including members of the national and provincial assemblies, from campaigning for candidates of their parties. He said that he had informed the ECP secretary with proof that PML-N MPAs Bilal Yaseen and Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman were running the campaign of the party candidate Kulsoom Nawaz.

He said the ECP secretary told him that they had already summoned MPA Yaseen on Thursday (today) to seek explanation over reports about violation of the code of conduct.

Mr Qureshi said he had also raised the issue of the blockage of CNICs of thousands of Pakhtun voters, who had been residing in the constituency for several years. “The PTI is concerned over the government’s move of blocking CNICs of the voters due to which they would not be able to exercise their democratic right of taking part in the by-election,” he said.

However, the ECP secretary said the issue was related to Nadra and not the commission.

Mr Qureshi had last month sent to Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) retired Justice Sardar Mohammad Raza a letter raising serious objections to the code due to which almost the entire senior leadership of the party, including chairman Imran Khan and secretary general Jahangir Tareen, were unable to participate in the election campaign of the party’s candidate Dr Yasmeen Rashid.

The PTI leader had also held a meeting with the CEC to take up the issue with him. The CEC told him that he was seeking opinion of the four members of the ECP and a decision on whether to modify the code or otherwise would be taken later.

Later, the commission turned down the request.

The PTI has already announced that Imran Khan will address a public meeting in Lahore on Friday (tomorrow) in connection with the election campaign of Dr Rashid.

Party leaders say that since Mr Khan cannot participate in any rally or public meeting within the NA-120 constituency “due to the ECP’s illogical bar” on the MNAs and MPAs, they have arranged the public meeting in Mazang, an area outside the limits of NA-120.

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2017