Pak ready to hold peaceful, free and transparent polls on Feb 8: Information Minister Solangi

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Islamabad, Feb 3 (PTI) Pakistan's information minister Murtaza Solangi on Saturday said the caretaker government has made full security arrangements to conduct the general election on February 8 in a peaceful, fair, free, and transparent manner.

Solangi was addressing the media and election observers along with the officials of the Foreign Office, the Ministry of Information, the Ministry of Interior and the Election Commission of Pakistan. Pakistan will go to polls on February 8.

He said that some elements had been spreading rumours in the recent past about the elections, citing the severity of the weather, the law and order situation, or some other issues.

"Full security arrangements have been made at the polling stations, and the government will ensure peaceful and transparent elections on February 8," he said.

"Police would be in the first tier, Rangers and Frontier Constabulary would perform duty in the second tier, while the third tier of security would be with the Pakistan Army as a quick response force." To a question, he said that law and order and terrorism were not new issues in Pakistan, as it has been battling the scourge of terrorism for the past few decades. He recalled that the 2008 and 2013 elections were conducted under the shadow of security threats.

"Since 2021, with the change of guard in Kabul, terrorist groups of various hues and colours having safe sanctuaries in a neighbouring country have become more active” he said, adding Pakistan was taking action against terrorists and that peaceful elections would be ensured at all costs.

"Our battle-hardened security forces are fully prepared for the elections," Solangi maintained.

He said that at least 92 international observers from different countries will cover the elections. The observers belonged to the European Union, Commonwealth, Russian Federation, Japan, South Africa, Malaysia, Zimbabwe, the Netherlands, Hungary, Sweden, Azerbaijan and Germany.

In response to a question about the allegations of victimisation of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leaders and party workers, he said that these allegations were baseless and absurd and clarified that some PTI activists were arrested. Still, they were detained in connection with their involvement in the May 9 incidents or other criminal acts.

ᨊ The minister said the PTI leadership was free to criticize the government and the court's verdicts. Moreover, they have other legal options, including knocking on the doors of courts, including the superior judiciary.

He also said that was now the fifth largest democracy in the world where the media enjoyed full freedom and everyone had the right to express opinion and criticize the government.

The remarks came as Pakistan was four days away from the general elections which are set to be held despite rumours about delay due to security reasons and inclement winter conditions.

About 18,000 candidates are in the race for the National Assembly and the four provincial assemblies.

The four provincial assemblies in which elections will occur are Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan province.

The National Assembly (NA) has a total of 336 seats; 266 general seats, 10 reserved seats for non-Muslims and 60 reserved seats for women. PTI SH AMS AKJ ] AMS

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