Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has strongly dispelled the impression that the upcoming parliamentary elections will be postponed due to security threats.
“The general elections will be held in the country on the 11th of May. We must not harbour any suspicions or misgivings about it,” he said, while addressing a ‘Yaum-e-Shuhada’ event in the garrison city of Rawalpindi on Tuesday.
His statement came amid doubts on whether the elections would take place on time in the wake of the deteriorating law and order situation in the country, particularly in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Karachi and Balochistan.
In his speech, the army chief also cautioned that the politics of ‘retribution’ would not strengthen democracy in the country.
“It is not merely about retribution, but is in fact about awareness and participation of the masses that can truly end this game of hide-and-seek between democracy and dictatorship.”
His carefully-worded remarks appeared to refer to the ongoing trial of former military ruler General Pervez Musharraf, who is also facing treason charges for imposing emergency rule in 2007.
The country’s powerful military establishment, though tight-lipped over Musharraf’s detention, is apparently upset over the way its former boss is being dragged into different cases.
Gen Kayani said the army was committed to “wholeheartedly assisting and supporting the conduct of free, fair and peaceful elections.”
“I also assure you that this support shall solely be aimed at strengthening democracy and rule of law in the country,” he remarked.
The army chief said the upcoming elections would provide a ‘golden opportunity’ to usher in an era of true democratic values in the country, and urged voters to elect those who would work for the country.
“If we succeed in rising above all ethnic, linguistic and sectarian biases to vote solely on the basis of honesty, sincerity, merit and competence, there would be no reason to fear dictatorship or to grudge the inadequacies of our present democratic system,” he emphasised.
Ownership of war on terror
In unambiguous terms, Gen Kayani declared that Pakistan was not fighting a war on terror at any other country’s behest.
He also indirectly hit out at certain political parties, which according to him, were trying to confuse the public on the issue of militancy.
“The menace of terrorism and extremism has claimed thousands of lives, including those of the army, Rangers, FC, Police, Frontier Constabulary, Levies and the innocent people of Pakistan. Our external enemies are busy in fuelling the flames of this fire,” he said.
In a clear signal to Taliban apologists and the ‘this is not our war’ crowd, he remarked that despite all this bloodshed, certain quarters still want to remain embroiled in the debate concerning the causes of this war and who imposed it on Pakistan.
“While this may be important in itself, the fact of the matter is that today it is Pakistan and its valiant people who are a target of this war and are suffering tremendously”.
“I would like to ask all those who raise such questions that 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,” he argued.
He said the country could not afford to confuse “our soldiers and weaken their resolve with such misgivings.”
“Every drop of blood shed for the national cause is sacred and no one can better understand its value than the families who are present here today,” he said. In his address, the army chief also called on militants to lay down their arms and accept the country’s constitution unconditionally.
“We sincerely desire that all those who have strayed and have picked up arms against the nation return to the fold.
However, this is only possible once they unconditionally submit to the State, he said.
However, he warned that there was no room for doubt when it comes to dealing with rebellion against the state.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 1st, 2013.
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