Ministry circular tells all 75 district administrations to suggest measures to counter potential threats to polls
KATHMANDU, March 17: The Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) has issued a circular to district administrations across the country to submit a comprehensive report outlining potential security challenges to the local polls scheduled for May 14 and the measures they would take to meet those challenges.
Maintaining law and order remains one of the biggest challenges for Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal's government which looks determined to hold the local polls. If the current political impasse persists, the government is poised to face serious security challenges in the tarai districts. These constitute the base of the agitating Madhes-based parties which have so far refused to come on board the elections. The districts are also home to several underground outfits.
The circular sent to all 75 district administrations Thursday comes just days after the Central Security Committee (CSC) at the home ministry submitted a detailed security assessment report highlighting potential challenges in maintaining law and order during the polls.
The CSC, the lead agency overseeing arrangements for the deployment of security forces and for handling overall security matters, comprises key stakeholders, including MoHA itself, the Ministry of Defense, Nepal Army, Nepal Police, Armed Police Force and the National Investigation Department (NID).
"As in the past, we have categorized situations into extremely critical, critical and normal, and specified what constitutes each category. Based on the given criteria, the security committees in all districts will develop appropriate plans to meet potential challenges in maintaining law and order," said Bhabishwor Pandey, a joint secretary at MoHA.
The district administrations have been directed to submit their integrated security plans by the first week of Chaitra (mid-March). MoHA will be making the overall security arrangements and will mobilize all five security agencies in accordance with the threat assessments.
The CSC, which is chaired by the home minister, has already made broad security arrangements. An estimated 226,000 security personnel including intelligence officials are likely to be deployed across the country during the polls, according to MoHA officials.
Although this number could increase on a need basis, the plan is to mobilize 54,000 personnel from Nepal Police, 30,000 from APF and 1,000 from NID. NA personnel will provide back up security. Similarly, plans are afoot to recruit around 75,000 temporary police personnel for poll-related purposes.
All the security agencies concerned have already furnished their own comprehensive threat analysis reports to MoHA along with the measures they hope to take to prevent any untoward incidents during the polls. The measures include plans for guarding the polling booths and ballot boxes and special security for politicians, poll officials and voters, said a MoHA official involved in drafting the Local Level Elections Security Plan-2017.
"Poll security remains a top priority of the Nepal Police and we are doing our best. We have already submitted our plans and preparations for the local polls and are working accordingly," said the Nepal Police Spokesperson, SSP Sarbendra Khanal.
MoHA officials said the army's role will be equally crucial. "NA's role is going to be important although it has been asked to act in a complementary capacity. Its role could be adjusted on the basis of the security needs of a particular place," said a MoHA official.
In its security assessment report submitted to the CSC, the army cited potential threats mainly from the Madhes-based parties and radical and extremist groups active in various parts of the country.
While addressing NA brass and rank and file during Army Day last month, Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) Gen. Rajendra Chhetri had indicated potential security threats from the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). But its leader Netra Bikram Chand afterwards announced that while his party would boycott the election it would not disrupt it. The party had resorted to violence and even detonated bombs to foil the Constituent Assembly polls in 2013.