Electoral Security Trainings help Mitigate Violence on Election Day

security police women training
Male and Female police officers in a group exercise training session in Islamabad. Photo: UNDP Pakistan/Sajid Ali Khan

"Pakistan’s fragile democracy cannot afford for the General Elections to suffer from violence as it only leads to disputes, disenfranchisement, and further disillusionment with the democratic setup", said Abdul Waheed, Commandant Police Training College Hangu.

Following international experiences in Sri Lanka, Nigeria and Sierra Leone where security related interventions led to improvements in electoral administration and considerable reduction in violence, the UNDP Electoral Cycle Support to the Election Commission of Pakistan 2012-2014 – Electoral Security Project collaborated with the ECP to train police officers who were to be assigned at polling stations to prevent and mitigate electoral violence.

Highlights

  • 17,152 police officials trained in 573 training sessions covering 11 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
  • 26 lead trainers trained and they further trained 257 Master Trainers.
  • 7,736 police officers were additionally trained in Punjab under Punjab Police Department’s own initiative.

17,152 police officers were trained all over Pakistan within a month’s time as a result of a 3 tiered cascade training programme. Letters of Agreement (LOAs) were signed between the UNDP and Police Training Colleges (PTCs) in Hangu, Chung, Quetta and Karachi for an institutionalised project intervention with the government’s ownership. Given the volatile security situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the largest number of trainings took place in this province, in the districts of Nowshehra, Swat, Chitral, Mardan, Peshawer, Lower Dir, Upper Dir, D.I. Khan, Hangu, Mansehra, Abbottabad and Kohistan. There was 100% attendance of training invitees and 513 female officers were also trained to specifically maintain security at female polling booths.

The training manuals included important topics like the Representation of People’s Act 1976 (ROPA), the Code of Conduct for Security Personnel, the Role of the ECP and law enforcement agencies and coping strategies for various scenarios of violence before, during and after elections. The trainers used interactive techniques including role-playing exercises to construct real world scenarios, debates, group work and participant presentations for effective learning.

The Inspector General of Police from the Punjab Police Department (PPD) lauded the efficacy of the trainings in defining the role of police officers and other stakeholders involved in the electoral process and the Department extended the roll out by undertaking further trainings on its own. Using their own resource pool without the financial or HR support of UNDP, PPD trained an additional 7,736 trainees in 36 districts across Punjab.

"This is the first time that I have undertaken such a training in 10 years of police service. Not only has it helped me understand the role of a police officer during the elections period but it has also clarified the magisterial authority of presiding officers over the police under the Constitution and ROPA, something I never knew about", said Waqar Ahmed, a Constable from District Mansehra.

The Project intends to implement further security trainings for the upcoming local government elections, through the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and its Provincial Offices. The base of lead trainers will be increased further and police training colleges will be engaged to mainstream the training curricula into regular trainings that they conduct in the future.