Islamabad:  Pakistan will go to polls as scheduled as it is a golden opportunity to usher in an era of true democratic values in the country, Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has said amid mounting attacks by the Taliban to derail the historic general elections.
    
Addressing an event to mark the Youm-e-Shahada (Day of Martyrs) on Tuesday, Kayani reiterated the army's commitment to hold free and fair elections. He criticized those who contend that the campaign against terrorism is not Pakistan's war and called for greater political consensus and a "clear policy" to tackle extremism and terrorism.
    
"Allah willing, general elections would be held in the country on May 11. There should be no doubt about this. This indeed is a golden opportunity which can usher in an era of true democratic values in the country," Kayani said in his speech in Urdu to a gathering that included top military commanders.
    
Over the past few days, the banned Pakistani Taliban have carried out a string of bomb attacks in Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provinces that targeted liberal parties like the Awami National Party, Pakistan People's Party and Muttahida Qaumi Movement. The attacks, which killed some 40 people, heightened concerns about security for the polls.



Kayani said awareness and participation of the people, and not merely retribution, could "truly end this game of hide and seek between democracy and dictatorship". If people rise above "ethnic, linguistic and sectarian biases" to vote only on the basis of honesty, sincerity, merit and competence, there will be "no reason to fear dictatorship or to grudge the inadequacies of our present democratic system", he added.

The army, he said, is committed to "wholeheartedly assist and support in the conduct of free, fair and peaceful elections; to the best of our capabilities and remaining within the confines of the Constitution". This support is only aimed at "strengthening democracy and rule of law", he said.
    
The upcoming polls are due to mark the first democratic transition of power after the PPP-led civilian government has served a full five-year term in a country that has been ruled by generals for half its life.

CLOSE SHAVE FOR ELECTION CANDIDATE

Meanwhile, a candidate in the upcoming general elections had a narrow escape on Wednesday when a suicide bomber blew himself up near his motorcade in southern Sindh province, injuring two persons. The attacker targeted National People's Party leader Ibrahim Jatoi's convoy at a toll plaza in Shikarpur area this morning.
    
Jatoi told the media that he was not injured by the blast. Two of Jatoi's supporters were wounded and two vehicles in the motorcade were destroyed. Jatoi is contesting polls to a parliamentary seat in Shikarpur area.
    
Police officials confirmed the attack had been carried out by a suicide bomber. They said they had found the head and body parts of the attacker. Security forces cordoned off the area and launched a search operation after the attack.
    
At Dera Murad Jamali in Balochistan province, a car bomb went off near the motorcade of independent candidate Allahdino Umrani though there were no casualties.
    
No group claimed responsibility for both attacks, the latest in a series of bombings targeting politicians and campaign meetings ahead of Pakistan’s landmark May 11 general election, which will mark the first democratic transition of power in the country’s history.

JPN/Agencies

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