Islamabad - Allaying fears and putting to rest theories taking round about the possibility of upcoming polls, Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani on Tuesday said in clear terms that elections would be held on the set day come what may.

He also reiterated that the army will wholeheartedly assist and support the conduct of free, fair and peaceful elections.

“Our salvation lies in transforming the government into a true platform of public representation. This would come to pass once the construct of public representation in Pakistan is oriented towards affording primacy and precedence to larger public interest over personal interests. Otherwise, may it be democracy or dictatorship; governance would continue to remain a means of self-aggrandisement and plundering national wealth,” said General Kayani while speaking at a ceremony at the General Headquarters. In the speech that touched on several issues, the COAS alluded to several quarters which cast a wrong spin on issues and create complications.

“By the will of Allah, general elections would be held on May 11. We must not harbour any suspicions or misgivings about it. This indeed is a golden opportunity, which can usher in an era of true democratic values in the country. In my opinion, it is not merely retribution, but awareness and participation of the masses that can truly end this game of hide and seek between democracy and dictatorship. 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 said.

“Like every Pakistani, the Pakistan Army, in its humble capacity, has endeavoured to strengthen democracy in the last five years, with the hope that the next elections would steer the country towards betterment,” General Kayani said.

“Now, once the destination is in sight we must not err in accomplishing our responsibilities towards the election process. We must never forget that success of any system resides in coming up to the aspirations of the masses. The success of democracy is intimately linked with the well-being and prosperity of the nation. The real virtue of democracy ultimately lies in the safety and welfare of the masses,” he added. “The general elections will provide us the foundation. To build on this foundation, we would have to find answers to many questions; the war against terrorism is one of these questions.”

Recalling the sacrifices of military, paramilitary personnel and police in the war on terror, the army chief stated, “Our external enemies are busy in igniting the flames of this fire.”

Responding to the critics on military’s role in the war on terror, the general said, “However, 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 us. While this may be important in itself but the fact of the matter is that today Pakistan and its valiant people are targets 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?”

“We cannot afford to confuse our soldiers and weaken their resolve with such misgivings,” he added.