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Challenging task: Elections and security

March 29, 2013

A FEW words of appreciation, a bit of bucking up would be in order for this is not an easy election for those at the helm. While holding a transparent, fair vote is a huge task, ensuring security for the polls is an even bigger challenge. Chaos is what militants have been looking to create, and it is not difficult to understand why certain violent groups are so afraid of the democratic processes that an election triggers. Among them, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan has gone beyond issuing warnings of a general nature to mark the PPP, the Awami National Party and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement as the unacceptable three whose public rallies they could target. This could seriously affect electioneering as it could deter those on the militants’ hit-list from being too conspicuous. This makes the contest a little uneven.

There are also reports the militants could launch an offensive in their bid to scuttle the election as whole, to weaken the fledgling democratic institutions and to push the country into turmoil to suit their disruptive agenda. An assessment by the Federal Interior Ministry reported in this paper on Thursday talks of a “massive terrorist threat” during the elections. The ministry’s assessment, presented to the Election Commission of Pakistan on Wednesday, is based on intelligence reports. It locates sensitive areas all over the country and identifies many varied sources of this danger, bringing out the scope and seriousness of the problem. The immediate response to the threat was the establishment of a joint task force involving ECP officials and representatives of the police, and of both the civilian and military intelligence agencies. The provinces were asked to requisition the army in advance, wherever they thought that an army deployment would be necessary. On the same day, the corps commanders met for the second time in three weeks to discuss an integrated security arrangement.

This is just the beginning. Given the enormity of the job, the need for a cohesive effort for a safe election cannot be overemphasised. In the days to come everyone will have to be on their toes to se-cure the process from the mischief-makers. All these players must, ultimately, be sustained in the performance of their duties by the Pakistani people’s commitment to solving their problems through the application of democracy. The people have never failed to express this desire. They are quite capable of thwarting the opponents of this ideal now and in the times to come.