The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has directed security personnel to maintain a stance of ‘neutrality and impartiality’ on February 8

With the general elections just a few weeks away, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has released guidelines for law enforcement agencies responsible for ensuring security during the polls scheduled for February 8.

In a comprehensive code of conduct for security personnel, the electoral watchdog underscores the importance of maintaining “neutrality and impartiality,” especially during the voting process, and emphasizes that security personnel should “not favor or oppose any political party or candidate in any way.”

These directives follow the formation of a seven-member committee by caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar, tasked with overseeing the smooth conduct of the upcoming general elections and managing their security arrangements.

According to a notification dated January 18, as obtained by Dawn.com, the ECP clarifies that its code of conduct does not apply to the armed forces and civil armed forces, as specific guidelines are being issued for them.

The ECP states that security personnel must perform their duties in accordance with the law, assisting the election commission in conducting free, fair, transparent, and peaceful elections. They are also required to provide full cooperation to the presiding officer to maintain order and ensure uninterrupted voting at polling stations.

The code emphasizes that security personnel should exhibit politeness, impeccable behavior in dealing with voters and polling staff, and firm and just behavior in accordance with the law when addressing any situation. It stresses that voters should not be intimidated or prevented from voting in any way.

The guidelines highlight that security personnel should not allow any voter carrying a weapon into a polling station. They should be aware that polling agents can observe the counting process and take copies of Form-45 (result of the count) and Form-46 (ballot paper account) from the presiding officer.

Additionally, security personnel must provide security to the offices of returning officers until the consolidation of results is complete, ensuring the safe deposit of polling bags and other materials to the ECP. Accredited observers and media personnel should be permitted to enter polling stations.

The code of conduct allows media persons to carry cameras to capture footage of the voting or counting processes while respecting the secrecy of the ballot. In specific instructions for law enforcement, including police officials, the ECP emphasizes that personnel should refrain from asking voters to present their identification, as this is the responsibility of the polling officer. Eligible voters should not be disallowed from entering a polling station.

Security personnel are instructed not to interfere with the function of presiding officers, assistant presiding officers, or polling officers. They should not arrest anyone at the polling station unless explicitly instructed by the presiding officer. Furthermore, they should not interfere in the counting process unless malpractice is identified.

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