Following the end of election campaigns for the first phase of local government elections in Punjab and Sindh, all presiding officers will be bestowed with the powers of a ‘magistrate first-class’ from today and polling will be held from 7:30am to 5:30pm on Saturday.
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In a statement on Thursday, the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) announced that army troops had been called in by the civil administration for maintenance of law and order in sensitive districts only for the upcoming local government elections. “Troops will assist law-enforcement agencies when and where required. However, conduct of elections will remain the responsibility of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP),” the announcement said. But with elections just a day away, the ECP has yet to release data on sensitive polling stations in eight districts of Sindh. Sources told Dawn that around 65 per cent of the polling stations in the province had been declared sensitive. Out of a total of 4,031 polling stations, 1,557 have been marked highly sensitive and another 1,053 were deemed sensitive.
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ECP did, however, release data regarding sensitive polling stations in Punjab, where nearly 73 per cent of all polling stations have been characterised as sensitive. Of a total 16,266 polling stations in 12 districts of Punjab, 11,851 have been declared sensitive and 3,551 have been deemed highly sensitive. In three districts — Lahore, Vehari and Chakwal — no polling stations were deemed normal. Of the 3,269 polling stations in Lahore – the hometown of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif – 2,430 polling stations have been marked sensitive and the rest are deemed highly sensitive. In Vehari, 811 out of a total of 1,085 polling stations have been declared sensitive and the rest of the 274 have been marked highly sensitive. In Chakwal, 558 out of 823 polling stations have been characterised as sensitive, while the remaining 265 polling stations were deemed highly sensitive.