In a recent statement to the Senate Committee, DG ISPR General Asif Ghafoor has categorically stated that the army will not play a ‘direct role’ in the elections.
“We do not have any link with the elections; we are only working on the election commission’s directives to improve the law and order situation,” he has said. “We don’t have a direct role in polls.”
Citing examples from 1997, 2002, 2008, and 2013, the general has pointed out that it is no new thing to have troops stationed at polling stations. Reportedly, this time 800,000 security personnel have been appointed to provide security – a figure much higher than ever before. The general added that Pakistan had been promised support from Afghanistan as well on that side of the border, in return for assistance during Afghanistan’s own elections. However, another thing that the DG made clear was that the army would not be taking ‘direct responsibility for the security of any politician’.
Furthermore, Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa added to the ISPR General’s assurances: “The army shall assist ECP strictly within the bounds of given mandate and as per the ECP code of conduct.”
That is all well and good theoretically but just how far does the public agree these claims will be practically implemented?
Some think the army’s influence is a foregone conclusion – and that the rumors of hardcore press censorship are evidence of it. Moreover, like General Ghafoor said the army’s presence at polling stations has been prevalent, some Pakistanis strongly point out so has been army interference:
If the army claims to be completely impartial, why isn’t it taking stronger action? Pakistanis are demanding a tougher policy against instigators of rigging and unfair influencing as a way for the army to prove that it is fully committed to fair elections:
There is a strong belief in the army’s near infallibility amongst the public. But this at the moment seems to be working against the army. Because of things that happened in the past, the people believe if the army wants something done, nothing can stand in its way. From there it’s not a big jump to make – the conclusion many may draw is that if the army wants to influence elections, it will be able to do so.