Fears mount in Pakistan over military’s election powers

Street poles are decorated with the flags and banners of political parties ahead of a general election in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, July 23, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 23 July 2018
0

Fears mount in Pakistan over military’s election powers

  • Analysts warn powers granted for military overseeing of election polls could erode trust in the tense contest
  • The 'magisterial powers' effectively make them judge and jury to punish individuals for illegal acts

ISLAMABAD: Fears have mounted over wide-ranging powers granted to military units overseeing Pakistan’s polling stations when the country votes Wednesday, with opposition parties and analysts warning the move could erode trust in the tense contest.
The Pakistan military will station over 370,000 troops nationwide to ensure the vote goes smoothly, the largest such deployment in the country’s history on an election day.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) later said military officers would also be given magisterial powers, effectively making them judge and jury to punish individuals for illegal acts committed inside polling stations.
“I don’t know why they have given these powers, because that will unnecessarily create doubts in the minds of people,” retired general and security analyst Talat Masood told AFP.
“I don’t think these powers have ever been granted.”
Election observers also questioned the move, and said there was rising anxiety over the large military presence at the polls.
“A lot of our interlocutors, and I would dare to say most of them, they raise serious concerns regarding the role of the military,” said Dimitra Ioannou, deputy chief observer of the European Union Election Observation Mission.
Last week, Sherry Rehman — opposition leader in the Senate, the parliament’s upper house — said the move could lead to potential conflicts and confusion. Raza Rabbani, another high-profile senator, demanded a clarification from the ECP.
The ECP said Sunday the presence of troops at polling stations is meant to ensure a “free and fair election.”
The military — which has ruled the country for roughly half its 70 year history — remains Pakistan’s most powerful institution and has a long history of meddling in politics and judicial affairs — a charge it denies.
“It would be difficult to call the elections free and fair,” Ibn Abdur Rehman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan told AFP Monday, following a press conference on media censorship during the campaign season.
The controversy comes as increasing militant attacks on campaign events in the last month have raised fears that insurgents may target voters.
Three candidates have been killed in attacks at political events this month, including a member of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party in a suicide attack on Sunday.
And on Monday, authorities announced an increased death toll — 153 — for an earlier attack on a rally in the town of Mastung in southwestern Balochistan province, making it the second-deadliest terror attack in Pakistan’s history.
The increasingly bitter contest is expected to be a tight race between jailed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s incumbent Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party and Khan’s PTI.


No indication North Korea nuclear activities stopped: UN watchdog

Updated 31 min 12 sec ago
0

No indication North Korea nuclear activities stopped: UN watchdog

  • ‘The continuation and further development of the DPRK’s nuclear program and related statements by the DPRK are a cause for grave concern’
  • The watchdog has stepped up monitoring through open source information and satellite imagery

VIENNA: The UN’s nuclear watchdog said it had not seen any indication that nuclear activities in North Korea have stopped despite its pledges to denuclearize.
“The continuation and further development of the DPRK’s nuclear program and related statements by the DPRK are a cause for grave concern,” said a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), referring to North Korea’s official name.
The report, published late Monday, by the director general of Yukiya Amano is to be submitted to an IAEA board meeting in September.
In 2009 Pyongyang expelled IAEA inspectors from its Yongbyon nuclear site and has since refused to allow IAEA inspections on its territory.
The watchdog has stepped up monitoring through open source information and satellite imagery, it said.
“As the Agency remains unable to carry out verification activities in the DPRK, its knowledge of the DPRK’s nuclear program is limited and, as further nuclear activities take place in the country, this knowledge is declining,” it said.
Between late-April and early-May, there were indications of the operation of the steam plant that serves the radiochemical laboratory at the Yongbyon site, according to the report.
However, the duration of the steam plant’s operation was not sufficient to have supported the reprocessing of a complete core from the experimental nuclear power plant reactor, it added.
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump held a groundbreaking summit in Singapore in June.
At the meeting the pair struck a vague agreement to denuclearize the Korean peninsula, but there has been little movement since.
Before this, Kim met South Korean President Moon Jae-in in April for their first summit. They agreed to push for a declaration of an end to the Korean War this year.