The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Sindh chapter is facing a shortage of 15,000 polling staff to conduct elections on 130 seats of the Sindh Assembly and 61 seats of the National Assembly during upcoming general elections.
The shortage of staff is likely to be met by private educational institutions, but permission has yet to be obtained.
There will also be a shortage of security personnel for the general elections in Sindh. As per the ECP sources, in view of the past experiences, at least 205,000 personnel are needed for security duties in the province. The law and order situation in the katcha area is also feared to be a big obstacle in the way of peaceful elections.
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All these issues were discussed in the meeting chaired by the Chief Election Commissioner Sikander Sultan Raja. According to the sources, in the meeting, Sindh Election Commissioner Ejaz Anwar Chauhan said that during the 2022 floods, a large number of polling stations have been damaged, which need repair.
Moreover, Chauhan said the condition of the roads in many flood-hit areas was so bad that people would find it difficult to reach the polling stations to cast their votes.
Sindh Chief Secretary Fakhre Alam Irfan replied that most of the polling stations affected by the flood have been repaired, and the remaining will also be repaired in time. He also assured of early repair of roads.
Chauhan said that the population of Sindh consists of 55,696,147 people. The province has 61 National Assembly seats and 130 Sindh Assembly seats, while number of voters is 26,783,254. He said that 19,236 polling stations will be set up in the province for the general elections, of which 6,776 will be normal, 8,030 sensitive and 4,430 highly sensitive. He added that 30 District Returning Officers and 191 Returning Officers will be appointed for general elections.
Chauhan informed the meeting that 238,317 polling staff will be required for election duty, of which 223,317 will be taken from various government departments, while the shortfall of 15,000 staff will be met from the private sector. However, the proposal to hire polling staff from private sector was still under consideration.
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Reputed educational institutes will be given preference but permission has not been given yet in this regard. Returning officers, district returning officers and other staff should be selected from other departments of the Sindh government instead of the revenue department so that the normal activities of the provincial administration are not affected.
Chief Election Commissioner said that all possible efforts should be made in consultation with the Sindh government to assign election duties to the extent of Returning Officers to Revenue Department officers. It was told in the meeting that 110,724 policemen, 47,332 Rangers and 47,332 military personnel will be required for the general elections. Their total number is 25388 but there is a shortage of law enforcement officials for election duty.
The representative of the law enforcement agency said in his briefing that the total number of Rangers personnel deployed in the province is around 23,000 due to which it is quite difficult to fulfil the requirements of the Election Commission.
IG Sindh said that Sindh Police is aware of the security concerns before, during and after the conduct of general elections. Efforts are underway to improve the law and order situation in the province, however, the issue of dacoits may hinder the peaceful conduct of elections in the kutcha area.
He said that given the security concerns, a list of highly sensitive and sensitive polling stations has been prepared and changes will be made given the situation.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 27th2023.