COAS General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s assurance to Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Justice (r) Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim that the military would extend full cooperation to the EC, as requested, in the conduct of the forthcoming general elections would indicate that serious efforts are being made to ensure they are held in a free, fair and transparent atmosphere. The suspicion based on the political setup’s record of corruption and bad governance must not filter onto an election process whose fairness and genuineness would be put to question. There is now an impartial person at the helm of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). The COAS’s assurance, however, should calm the anxieties raised by Tahir-ul-Qadri’s sudden emergence on the scene and his ill-timed and impractical demands, which would derail the delicate political process, if so much a given consideration.

The two officials met at the Nadra headquarters, Islamabad, on Wednesday. Later, Justice Ebrahim held a hurriedly called media briefing on his meeting with General Kayani. He told a journalist that he had had “very open and cordial discussion with General Kayani about the intelligence agencies...I spoke my mind, and so did he” and the assurances he received was the army’s full cooperation in the fair conduct of the polls and its compliance with the directives issued by the ECP. The journalist had drawn the CEC’s attention to the traditional role of the intelligence agencies to manoeuvre the political party of their choice into power so that it would fall in line with their wishes in the formulation of state policies, thus nullifying the very concept underlying a democratic order: rule by the true representatives of the people. The CEC’s remark that he was ‘personally’ not in favour of the delimitation of constituencies in Karachi “at this point ahead of the general elections” provoked a volley of questions from the mediamen present at the conference. The ECP Secretary is reported to have intervened to clarify the point and said, “We will take final decision after getting their (the political parties’) input.”

Justice Ebrahim’s efforts to hold elections in compliance with his mandate are, indeed, commendable and so is General Kayani’s readiness to make the services of army personnel available for the elections to serve the interests of democracy and, of course, the country. With four to five months yet to go before the country goes to the polls, settling the preliminaries at this stage (like ensuring military’s help in conducting fair elections) also gives strong hope that the elections would take place in time and not be delayed on one pretext or the other. One would fervently wish that the vested interests who are trying to create doubts in the minds of the people about the timely holding of elections by introducing bizarre ideas would not succeed in their mission.