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News Analysis: Pakistan's army chief supports peaceful power transfer, poll results

By Muhammad Tahir (Xinhua)

18:34, February 26, 2013

ISLAMABAD, Feb. 26 (Xinhua) -- General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, chief of Pakistan's powerful army, has announced that the army categorically supports a peaceful transfer of power in Pakistan and would accept the result of the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Kayani's assurance during a five-hour interaction with a group of senior journalists and columnists here has put to rest rumors about the postponement of the elections, which had recently gripped the local media.

The ruling coalition led by President Asif Zardari's Pakistan People Party (PPP) will complete its five-year constitutional term on March 17 and new elections are scheduled to be held in two months after the dissolution of the assemblies.

As the elections are fast approaching, some political leaders including of the PPP, had expressed concerns at 'efforts' to postpone elections and to prolong the period of the caretaker set- up, that is installed for three months to supervise elections.

The Pakistan army chief's declaration of support to the holding of the elections as mandated by the Constitution and the peaceful transition of power has now allayed fears about any possibility of a derailment in the election process.

"The armed forces support transparent elections and peaceful transfer of power," General Kayani was quoted as telling the journalists, a senior columnist, Irfan Siddiqui, who writes for the largely-circulated Urdu-language daily Jang (war), wrote on Tuesday.

"We will accept election results wholeheartedly. If the people elect good or bad people, it is not our responsibility. It is our constitutional responsibility to support whoever forms a government,"General Kayani said.

Kayani said that the army has not intervened in Pakistan's political affairs over the past five years and will pursue the same policy in line with the provision of the Constitution.

The army chief's assurance was obviously made to dispel the impression created on TV debates and the local media that there are certain government and opposition leaders who have reportedly hatched some plans to "hijack the elections process."

Analysts are saying that it is now time for the government to begin talks with the main opposition Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) headed by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to choose a caretaker Prime minister to remove apprehensions about the elections.

The government is bound under the Constitution to agree with the main opposition party in the parliament to select a caretaker leader that would run the country while elections are being prepared and held.

The opposition said it has already submitted two names for the selection process. The government will have to submit two other names and from the four names, the two parties will pick up one to lead the caretaker government.

If both sides fail to reach consensus on one name then the issue will be referred to the Chief Election Commissioner.

Political bitterness in Pakistan is so deep that the government and the main opposition have not yet agreed to open formal dialogue on the caretaker setup when two weeks are left with the current government.

Presidential Spokesman Farhatullah Babar said on Monday that no talks have yet been started on the caretaker structure.

The government and the opposition could remove all apprehensions about the elections by taking the necessary actions toward the setting up of the caretaker machinery since any further delay could only fan the uncertainties caused by rumormongers.

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