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Gen Kayani’s unflinching resolve

F Z Khan

The elections this time are being directly attributed to the armed forces’ “major contribution” towards democracy. Tremendous satisfaction has been expressed by the people in general and the general election contestants in particular, both print and electronic media as well as the intelligentsia especially after the Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani’s “much needed assurance” in his widely welcomed speech on the eve of Yaum-e-Shuhada on April 30. “By the will of Allah general election will be held on May 11,” he vowed. “We must not harbour any doubts or misgivings about it,” he emphatically said. He reiterated army’s commitment of wholehearted and complete support “to the best of our capabilities and remaining within the confines of the Constitution in the conduct of free, fair and peaceful elections.” This assurance came in the wake of heightened incidence of violence against the candidates that led to a wave of uncertainty about general election across the country. Mr Asfandyar Wali, the leader of Awami National Party, in an interview with the “Jirga” programme host, Saleem Safi, thanked Gen Kayani for giving life to the political process and called his speech “a big sigh of relief.” “As I heard the speech, I took a sigh of relief, had the dinner and slept a peaceful sleep. He clearly said that this war was not anyone else’s but our own.” In his ‘beeper’ comment during the Geo TV news bulletin, senior journalist Hamid Mir said that the army chief’s assurance would certainly dispel the air of uncertainty about the timely holding of general election. The editorial comments of almost all national dailies, both Urdu and English, commended the “timely assurance” by Gen. Kayani and Mahmood Shaam, the veteran journalist, in his open letter to the Chief of Army Staff said “your address gave a fresh spirit and galvanization to the nation.”

Though the COAS’ speech had more in the content, for example, he cautioned against disowning the ongoing military operations in the troubled areas, advised politicians not to leave space for dictatorship, etc; yet the focus remained on the military’s assistance and assurance for holding of fair and free elections. His words were bold enough that not only a clear signal to terrorists was delivered that they can rejoin the national mainstream but only after they “unconditionally submit to the state, its Constitution and the rule of law”; but also put a question before those who have in their minds doubts about this war. “If a small faction wants to enforce its distorted ideology over the entire nation by taking up arms and for this purpose defies the Constitution of Pakistan and the democratic process and considers all forms of bloodshed justified, then does the fight against this enemy of the state constitute someone else’s war?” The most important was Gen Kayani’s message to the people and especially politicians. “We cannot afford to confuse our soldiers and weaken their resolve with such misgivings.” Those who feel that by distancing from the war in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s troubles will end are just deceiving themselves. “Even in the history of the best evolved democratic states, treason or seditious uprisings against the state have never been tolerated and in such struggles their armed forces have had unflinching support of the masses; questions about the ownership of such wars have never been raised,” he argued.

With the Election Commission almost insufficient and the caretaker government almost invisible, there is only General Kayani whose assurance has played major role towards holding the elections on time. His dashes to Quetta, Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar, holding corpse commanders conference and taking briefings from the civil and LEAs and inspecting directly the arrangements for the May 11 elections is a highly commendable job. Hopefully the security plan that the COAS and the Punjab government have laid down for Sindh would prove to be effective enough to spare the country of the agony of terrorist attacks not only on the Election Day but beyond that.

Director-General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asim Salim Bajwa while giving details on the high-level meeting chaired by Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in Lahore on May 8 said that the people should not heed to the threats coming from different quarters and exercise their right to franchise in a free manner as the army would move in case of any threat or law and order situation. He quoted Gen. Kayani as telling the participants at the Lahore Corps Headquarters where senior military officials including all Corps Commanders of Punjab, DG Rangers Punjab, Punjab Chief Secretary, Home Secretary, IGP Punjab, DIG Operations and heads of intelligence agencies gathered, that all-out efforts were being made to ensure peaceful elections on May 11 as he allayed fears about polling day and removed uncertainty over holding of elections.

Najeeb Anjum’s “It is our war” on May 9 thus concludes: Analyzing the crux of this important address by the army chief, one tends to agree with him that the current situation of the country is not stable and the squabbles and irresponsible behavior of politicians have worsened the situation. Some skeptics have misconstrued the underlying theme of the address. In fact, Gen Kayani has reminded those elements that at a time when the troops are engaged with terrorists and when they have been deployed in major cities, any adventurism on the part of political parties, on or after the elections, might turn the events into a repeat of the 1977 elections. It is, therefore, in the interest of the country that the elections be held on time and in a peaceful manner.

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