COAS General Kayani has said that the army respects the elected institutions, and wants public representatives, elected through free and fair elections, to serve the nation. He said this to Chief Election Commissioner Mr Justice (r) Fakhruddin G. Ibrahim on Thursday. Mr Justice Ebrahim called on General Kayani on Thursday at GHQ to thank him for the services rendered by the armed forces during the election on May 11, and to ask for further army assistance in the form of provision of security, this time for the Sunday re-polling in Karachi, on some polling stations of NA-250. He also discussed the security plan for this re-polling with the Director General Military Operations. It does need pointing out that the COAS should not engage in discussing politics, but it must also be pointed out that what he said was an indication that the army was not going to repeat the mistakes of the past and was not attempting to take power.

It should have been realised long before that the army was in search of guidance, such as during the Salalah crisis, and it needs to be understood that the military requires the political authority to set it its tasks. That political authority must be properly elected. It needs to be noted that the request for assistance in Karachi has come after the Sindh caretaker government has said that it cannot arrange for a secure poll. The army is not just fulfilling its duty as the state machinery’s force of last sort, but it is also showing the world that it stands committed to the democratic process. In the process, it will also show that it is subordinated to the political authority, especially as it is duly elected, and thus constitutionally constituted. The nation has too often witnessed the military’s search for legitimacy in periods of military rule. It is, therefore, more than welcome to witness this search proceeding now, through undisputed constitutional and legal means. The provision of security in Karachi is thus not merely an exercise in providing security, but evidence to the nation of its commitment to democracy.

The role of the political forces cannot be ignored, especially of those elected. They must provide the armed forces with the guidance they require, and set the policies they must implement, as well as provide them the resources they need to do so. Past failures of the system have come from gaps in it opened up by politicians who have been neglectful of their duty and over zealous generals eager to superimpose their will on the system. However, the re-polling is important in itself, for the people of the constituency deserve the correct representation.