Pakistan enhances security ahead of general elections

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Islamabad, July 20 (IANS) The Pakistani government has enhanced security across the country, especially of the politicians and for public rallies ahead of the July 25 general elections, an official said on Friday.

The government held several high-level meetings last week over the security issues in which police, the Counter Terrorism Department and intelligence agencies were directed to step up security for prominent political figures under threat and sensitive installations in all provinces to thwart possible terrorist attacks.

Rallies, processions, demonstrations and public meetings have been banned except those which are allowed by the authorities and held in the secured premises, the government official told Xinhua news agency.

Vigilance has been increased at important places including airports, railway stations, bus terminals, markets, hospitals, schools, religious places and recreational sites.

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Police have been asked to conduct surveys of residential areas, hostels, guest houses and hotels to ensure that no miscreant is hiding.

Pakistan is going to hold general elections for the National Assembly — the Lower House of the country’s Parliament — and four provincial Assemblies. Following the elections, the National Assembly will elect the country’s new Prime Minister.

Tensions have risen in the country since the jailing of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on corruption charges last week. He was jailed for 10 years while his daughter and presumed political heir Maryam Nawaz received a seven-year sentence.

The three-time Premier claims that the military is aiding a “judicial witch-hunt” to prevent the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) from winning a second term in power.

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Following a pro-Sharif rally in the city last week, Pakistani authorities launched an anti-terrorism investigation against PML-N leaders and opened criminal cases against nearly 17,000 party members.

Opinion polls indicate a close race between the PML-N and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan.

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), led by Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, the son of assassinated former Premier Benazir Bhutto, is expected to finish in third place, surveys say.

Security measures have been taken after a series of terrorist attacks at political rallies in Pakistan earlier this month, which have killed at least 180 people and injured over 200.

On July 13, at least 150 people lost their lives in a suicide blast targeting a convoy of a political candidate in Mastung area of the country’s Balochistan province. A strike on another politician the same day in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province killed four people.

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Pakistan’s National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) warned that the country’s key political leaders were facing security threats from extremists during the election period.

The Pakistani Army has announced that it would play its due role to support the Election Commission to conduct the polls in a peaceful atmosphere by deploying 371,388 security personnel at the 85,300 polling stations across the country to ensure security.

–IANS

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