ISLAMABAD: The army on Wednesday indicated that it had no issues with not getting a role in holding of elections in the country in the future.
Army spokesman Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, while taking part in a talk show on a private channel, said that Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa had already proposed to political leaders to devise a system and create an environment that could end the military’s role in elections.
In response to another question, the spokesman said that his comments always reflected the army’s institutional position on issues and were never his own views.
The army has provided security in most of the elections held in the country by guarding polling stations and providing security cover to the election staff and material during their movement.
Elections held last year saw the largest deployment in the country’s electoral history as 371,388 troops were involved.
The army’s growing role has drawn criticism from political parties, some of whom alleged that the army and intelligence agencies influenced the electoral process last year. In view of these concerns, the opposition parties have included the demand for ending army’s role in elections in the four-point charter of demands for ending the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam’s Islamabad sit-in.
Maj Gen Ghafoor said that the army gets involved in elections only when requisitioned by the government for assistance under the Constitution. “It is not that the Constitution gives us a role or we desire to have one. It is always the decision of the government of the day. There is also input of other parties. Army has no role in the matter,” he said.
He further said that discussions on how many troops to deploy and where to deploy them take place after the army has been requisitioned under the Constitution.
The armed forces are requisitioned under Articles 220 and 245 of the Constitution. Article 220 obligates all executive authorities in the federation and in the provinces to assist the Chief Election Commissioner and the Election Commission of Pakistan in the discharge of their functions, whereas Article 245 pertains to requisitioning of armed forces in aid of civil power.
“When the troops are not required, they will not come. It is up to the government and other political parties to decide on it,” he maintained.
The military spokesman, in response to a question, ruled out any role for the army in defusing the political situation created by the JUI-F sit-in. “A sit-in is a political activity. The army as an institution neither has a role nor had it in the past [.…] It is for the government and the opposition to deal with the matter. It is their domain and their job.”
He recalled that the army had during the 2014 sit-in also deployed troops in the federal capital for protecting important buildings in the Red Zone on the government’s instructions.
About the allegations related to interference by “institutions” in political matters, Maj Gen Ghafoor said the army is too preoccupied with its national security duties to indulge in such activities or even to respond to these allegations.
Published in Dawn, November 7th, 2019