Pakistan to deploy 600,000 security officers for vote

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Pakistan will deploy more than 600,000 security personnel during next week’s general election to guard against Taliban attacks that have marred campaigning, an official said Thursday.

The May 11 polls will mark the first time that a civilian government has completed a full five-year term and handed over to an elected successor, in a country ruled by the military for half its 66-year history.

The election commission has set up more than 73,000 polling stations, with 20,000 earmarked as “sensitive or most sensitive”, spokesman Khurshid Alam said.

Bomb and gun attacks have killed more than 60 people in direct attacks on politicians and political parties since April 11, according to an AFP tally.

Alam said the number of “sensitive” locations could be increased.

“The army has promised to provide 50,000 troops for election day security,” he said, adding that the number may be increased if deemed necessary.

“They will be part of a total deployment of over 600,000 security personnel and members of the other law enforcement agencies like police, paramilitary rangers, tribal police and national volunteers,” he said.

Five security personnel will be stationed at each polling station, and seven to 10 at sensitive and most sensitive polling stations, Alam said.

Most attacks during the campaign have been claimed by the Taliban, which has branded democracy “un-Islamic” and a system for infidels.

The militia has leveled direct threats against the three main parties of the outgoing government. Opposition leader Nawaz Sharif and opposition politician Imran Khan are the only two national party leaders holding large public rallies.

On Tuesday Pakistan’s army chief General Ashfaq Kayani said the army was determined to ensure a peaceful election.

“Our salvation resides in transforming the government into a true platform of public representation,” he said.