An appreciable initiative

The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Justice (r) Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim’s visit to Quetta to hold talks with political parties in Balochistan to urge them to shed their reservations, if any, about participating in the forthcoming general elections was a welcome initiative. He received an across-the-board nod when he told them that he had the complete assurance of the Army and the Frontier Constabulary (FC) that they would provide due security. Balochistan Chief Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Muhammad, who was present at the meeting, confirmed that the army and the FC had pledged themselves to provide due security and the both were at the disposal of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). To this, ECP Secretary Ishtiak Ahmad Khan added that each candidate would be given four guards during the elections and maintained that strict measures had been adopted to ensure that rigging and bogus voting did not take place. For having a secure environment for the Hazara community, the recent target of sectarian fanaticism, to cast their vote, a suitable strategy was being chalked out. ECP Member Justice (r) Fazalur Rehman was happy at all political parties’ agreeing to take part in the polls.

To the parties’ doubts about the likelihood of change in the fortunes of the province after the polls, the CEC replied that the free and fair elections his commission was striving hard to conduct should be expected to throw up candidates who would adopt policies that are oriented towards development and betterment of the people’s lot. Thus, in the full participation of parties lies the success not only for the province, but also for the whole of Pakistan. One would hope that the candidates would stand behind the ECP to achieve its goal. On the request of the political parties and in view of recent floods in Balochistan, the period of nomination of papers was extended till March 31. The CEC also met caretaker Chief Minister Nawab Ghaus Bakhsh Barozai. The only dissenting vote came from exiled Nawabzada Brahamdagh Bugti, chief of Baloch Republican Party, that has been among those carrying out violent acts. Brahamdagh, in an interview with foreign media, said that joining in the electoral process meant recognition of Pakistan; and he did not want to have any dealings with it and that was why he was striving for an independent Balochistan.

It is good that the CEC plans to hold similar meetings with political parties of the rest of the provinces. Justice Ebrahim should remember that the change that he and the nation wish to see happen post-polls is only possible if apart from the conduct of free and fair elections, the candidates are screened strictly in the light of articles 62 and 63 of the constitution. At the same time, serious attempts at neutralising the terrorist menace have to be initiated right now to create a reassuring climate for the voters to cast their ballot. The danger of turmoil, while ever present in areas that are being daily hit, cannot be ruled out elsewhere. The whole nation, the political parties and all, have to join hands with the security forces to make the exercise of the right to franchise a success.