COAS Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has said that the Army would extend all possible assistance to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in holding peaceful and fair elections. He said this in a meeting with Balochistan Governor Zulfiqar Magsi and caretaker Chief Minister Ghous Baksh Barozai. That means the army would provide the troops to ensure security of voters when they cast their ballots. In the process, it would also help burnish its own image, which has been tarnished by the murder of Nawab Akbar Bugti and disappearances. That the army has been aware of such a need has been shown by the various technical training programmes it is conducting as well as its commitment to education there, and providing security to polling must be seen not just as a national commitment to elections, but also a commitment to the province’s future. In this context, General Kayani’s visit to Quetta must also be seen as a follow-up to the visit of Chief Election Commissioner Fakhruddin Ebrahim, who met representatives of Baloch political parties, including nationalists, and persuaded them to take part in elections on the promise of the provision of security to the voters.

That the whole country is heading to polls, and not just Balochistan, is shown by the fact that several former MNAs and MPAs have been convicted for having fake degrees, while scrutiny is continuing, with several ex-parliamentarians finding themselves barred from standing for re-election. The ECP has appointed appellate tribunals in all four high courts, where the cases of many disqualifications might end.

The inexorable march to the general elections should be marked by rallies, marches and other campaign activities and all the accompanying hullabaloo of an election, in Balochistan as much as in the rest of the country. While the provision of security is the primary responsibility of the caretaker provincial governments, the ECP is responsible for a peaceful poll. Ensuring security is now a national duty. It is also especially so in Balochistan, KPK, Fata and Karachi, which have been badly hit by all kinds of violence and terrorism, and, according to recent developments, the Army has taken up the responsibility of providing security, in particular at sensitive polling stations.