Islamabad: Pakistan Army will deploy 70,000 troops and 50 helicopters for aerial surveillance across the country to ensure security and maintain law and order during the landmark May 11 polls, marking the first democratic transition in the nation's history. Details about the deployment of troops and the army's role in providing security to the election process, threatened by banned groups like Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, were provided today by chief military spokesman Major General Asim Saleem Bajwa during a news conference at the army's General Headquarters in Rawalpindi.
The military will ensure complete security on polling day and a special security monitoring cell will be established at the General Headquarters. A comprehensive security plan is in place and arrangements have been made for mobilising helicopter-borne units to respond to any eventuality, Bajwa said. The paramilitary Pakistan Rangers and Frontier Corps and police will guard polling stations while the Army Aviation will provide 50 helicopters for aerial surveillance across the country on May 11, 2013.
Thousands of other personnel will also be put on stand-by to be used as quick response teams in case of any untoward incident, Bajwa said. At the same time, the Frontier Corps will continue operations in the country's largest city of Karachi to ensure security for the polls, he said.
The news of military deployment comes two days after army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said Pakistan will go to polls as scheduled as it is a golden opportunity to usher in an era of true democratic values in the country. "Allah willing, general elections would be held in the country on May 11, 2013. There should be no doubt about this. This indeed is a golden opportunity which can usher in an era of true democratic values in the country," Kayani said.
The deployment of troops in the southwestern Balochistan province has already been completed while soldiers will begin fanning out across Karachi and other parts of Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab over the next few days. The army will also provide logistics for transporting ballot papers from government printing presses to polling stations. The army deployed troops at printing presses in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi last month to provide security for the printing of ballot papers.
The government has sought the deployment of troops under constitutional provisions following a series of attacks on politicians and campaign meetings across the country. Some 40 people have died in these attacks. The banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan has said it will target liberal parties like the Awami National Party, Pakistan Peoples Party and Muttahida Qaumi Movement. There have been more attacks on candidates in Balochistan, Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provinces.