ISLAMABAD: Islamabad will go for the first-ever local government elections today amidst special security arrangements to avoid any law and order situation. Over 680,612 registered voters, 367,960 of them men and 312,652 women, will exercise their voting right during the municipal elections. As many as 2,396 candidates will contest for 550 seats in the federal capital of the country. There are 255 candidates contesting for the chairman seats while 1,210 candidates are battling for the general seats.

A total 351 female candidates will compete for the women seats while 248 candidates will be aiming for the labour seats. On the other hand, 230 candidates will be aiming for the youth councillors while 102 will contest for the minority seats in today’s elections. Over 4,500 police, 625 Army troops, 700 Rangers and 1,000 FC personnel have been deputed in the capital to perform security duties on the occasion. Sources said that the personnel from all these security agencies have been provided special mobile phone SIMs to remain in contact with one another and also with the central control room. The location of these SIMs can also be monitored by the command and control room set up under the Safe City Project, they added.

The federal capital has been divided into 50 union councils. 640 polling stations have been set up in 326 buildings, out of which 62 have been declared sensitive (‘A’ category), 208 in ‘B’ and 56 in the ‘C’ category. Polling stations were declared sensitive in the light of a report prepared by the police’s Special Branch. Army personnel would be deputed at sensitive polling stations. Polling will begin at 7am and continue till 5:30pm without break. The ECP said green ballot papers would be used for the election of chairmen and vice chairmen and white ones for the general seats. The election commission has also set up a control room for the LGs elections monitoring.

As many as 33 teams, comprising police and Rangers personnel, will patrol the city on the occasion. Each team would be assigned an area covering eight to 12 polling stations. Each of the 22 police stations would be provided two platoons of the Frontier Constabulary, each comprising 34 personnel, the sources said. Islamabad Inspector General of Police, Tahir Alam Khan has directed for elaborate security arrangements and he told all police officials to conduct complete checking of buildings before start of polling, besides maintaining close liaison with Returning Officers for peaceful holding of elections. The IGP said that implementation of the code of conduct issued by the election commission will be ensured at every cost and display of weapons as well as aerial firing would be completely banned.

The interior ministry has announced the closure of all government offices at 02.00 PM in Islamabad today to enable the civil servants to cast their ballot in the first-ever local government elections. Majority of civil servants were expecting local holiday on 30th November, the day of the elections but Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan rejected the proposal moved by the Election Commission of Pakistan and forwarded to him by the Ministry of Interior.

According to reports, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said there would be enough time for the people to cast vote during the day and full-day holiday cannot be granted as it would mean closure of state institutions for three consecutive days. He said those who are to exercise their right to vote can do so after 02.00 PM. He pointed out that nowhere in the world public holiday is declared on the election day. In the past public holidays had been declared on the occasion of general elections and local holidays during the first two phases of local government elections in Punjab and Sindh. The Sunday’s decision to close the government offices in Islamabad at 2pm on the polling day comes after criticism from the opposition parties, particularly PTI that why the government has not declared local holiday on the occasion of the elections.

The decision on the part of the government is a reflection of no-confidence against the government employees. “The government is fearing that the employees would vote against the ruling party… otherwise there is no justification for the decision to open offices on the polling day,” a government employee at the Ministry of Interior said on condition of anonymity.