THE decision to deploy the army in Balochistan ahead of the May 11 polls was a long overdue and difficult one considering the security establishment’s controversial role in the province. Nevertheless, given the level of threat from the insurgents, the army’s role in maintaining security should be welcomed as polling day approaches. The deployment began on Monday in 11 ‘sensitive’ districts; by Tuesday evening, many other districts had been covered, sending a message to both democratic and anti-democratic forces. The former need security and the latter an adequate force response. Separatist elements have targeted a number of parties and candidates — they are even against Baloch nationalists contesting the polls. Their tactics and the mainstream parties’ determination to contest makes the holding of these polls even more important, as the elections could prove to be a turning point in Balochistan’s quest for its rights through peaceful and democratic means.
While the TTP has targe-ted candidates and election offices in KP and Karachi as well, Balochistan faces threats from both the Taliban and the separatists. The Taliban may have nothing in common with Baloch insurgents whose ideology is not based on religion, but both are against the electoral process. Against this background the presence of the security forces should deter both ‘secular’ and ‘religious’ militants and at the same time give a sense of security to all candidates, party workers and the staff of the Election Commission of Pakistan. However, the army should not overstep its mandate and strictly restrict itself to election security. Its duties are supposed to begin today and last till May 15. There should be no reason for it to stay on after this date.
Meanwhile, KP and Karachi also need attention. No province has suffered more from the TTP’s murderous policies than KP, and no city has been subjected to terror attacks the way Karachi has been since the start of campaigning. Controlling the terror attacks will constitute a major step towards creating a level playing field for all parties and candidates.