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Army’s help to be sought for poll security

April 18, 2013

Prime Minister, Justice (R) Mir Hazar Khan Khoso chairing cabinet held at Prime Minister Secretariat, in Islamabad. — Photo by PPI.

ISLAMABAD: Deteriorating law and order conditions in the country before general elections was the top agenda item for the caretaker federal cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

The meeting decided to bring in all available resources, including the deployment of army, to improve security.

It was the second cabinet meeting of the caretakers, who, unlike their first sitting on April 5, wore a sombre look due to Tuesday’s bombing of two election rallies in Khuzdar and Peshawar. The ministers expressed fears that if the government failed to provide adequate security to voters, they would not come out on the day of voting.

“This will put a question mark over credibility of the elections,” said a government official who attended the meeting. In Khuzdar, the PML-N’s provincial chief lost his brother, son and a nephew, while in Peshawar, the former railway minister Haji Ghulam Ahmad Bilour narrowly escaped a suicide bombing in which 15 people lost their lives.

Caretaker information minister Arif Nizami said the government was disturbed over the spike in election-related violence.

Although he didn’t elaborate, the minister said that in order to ensure a conducive environment for electioneering, the cabinet had decided to seek the army’s assistance.

The preoccupation of the federal cabinet with violence also figured in the prime minister’s speech. Justice retired Mir Hazar Khan Khoso, who chaired the meeting, said: “The cabinet directs the law enforcement agencies to beef up security. I will also urge the provincial governments to keep a vigilant eye on any suspicious activity and evolve a mechanism to counter any such terrorist act with an iron hand.”

The prime minister said the government would extend all-out assistance to provincial governments in their fight against militants, adding: “All possible measures will be taken for improvement in the law and order situation.”

Asked how the government will react if some political parties decided to boycott elections, Mr Nizami said no major party had given any such indication.

The information minister dismissed allegations that the government was discriminating in providing security to political leaders.

“Their security has just been rationalised on the basis of security threats they are facing.”

Even the prime minister, in his statement, addressed this matter of personal likes and dislikes.

“We should dissuade ourselves from indulging in any kind of partisanship. It is of course logical and necessary that we choose and adopt a low profile and do not embroil ourselves in dubious matters, particularly in relation to affairs of political parties”.

Caretaker interior minister Malik Habib kicked up a storm last week after describing PML-N chief Mian Nawaz Sharif as the “only national leader who can steer the country out of its troubles”.

In reply to a question whether the government was considering the option to invoke article 6 of the constitution against former retired General Pervez Musharraf, Arif Nizami argued that the matter was sub judice and the government would abide by the court’s ruling.

When a questioner sought his attention towards proceedings of the Senate during which some senators have accused the Election Commission of “unnecessarily targeting politicians”, he said the government cannot direct the ECP what to do and what not to do because of its independent status.

Mr Nizami also refused to buy the argument that the establishment was stoking security concerns before elections in order to derail democracy. “We shouldn’t doubt their intentions as they want democracy to flourish”.

In reply to a question about the power shortage, Arif Nizami said the cabinet had endorsed a number of short-term measures to tackle the problem.