It is quite upsetting for all those eagerly awaiting the election day to arrive, to hear caretaker Interior Minister Malik Habib make certain observations in public that carry the unwelcome implication of frustrating the holding of polls on time. For instance, there was little sense in announcing that there was a serious threat to the lives of PML-N President Mian Nawaz Sharif and PTI’s chief Imran Khan except that by making a particular reference to them, Mr Habib was creating an unnecessary fear and doubt whether the idea was to have the balloting put off. Strangely, the Minister, at the same time, said: “It is priority of the interim government to hold free, fair and timely elections.” About certain politicians’ stand demanding a postponement, he believed it was their personal view.

The reality of the scare-laden atmosphere prevailing across the length and breadth of the country is that no political leader, no one involved in the exercise of elections, or, for that matter, even a stay-at-home can assume to be free from danger to his or her life. Militancy apart, there is the all-pervasive poor law and order situation, with thieves and robbers and street criminals having a field day all through the year. The other reality is that the terrorists – the faction-ridden TTP – have warned specifically the PPP, the MQM and the ANP against holding rallies, saying they would be targeted. As, according to an estimate, the outfit is divided into 23 hazily separated groups, the threat is ominous. Apparently, the Mulla Nazir group has announced that it would not interfere in the electoral process in South Waziristan, while arrogantly advising three political parties – PPP, MQM and ANP – not to launch their campaigns at the public level.

The caretaker Minister made another statement after holding a meeting with the Director-General Military Operations. His words: “if any incident happened on polling stations it would create a negative image of the army” i.e. in case its men were deployed there. That implied justification of the approach that the ubiquitous deployment of army personnel at every polling station was a non-professional approach. However, he added, the government could ask the army to deploy its personnel at sensitive polling stations on request from the Election Commission.

The scenario calls for all concerned institutions and politicians to strive hard to create conditions conducive to the general elections taking place on May 11, the scheduled date. The nation’s salvation lies in the democratic process to continue and let cleaner and more competent leadership to emerge. Any interruption threatens to drive us back into the arms of military dictatorship, a prospect that we should forestall at all costs.