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Editorial: Pakistan’s Security Threat

Will the Supreme Court be swayed from early polls in Punjab by the government’s warnings of potential instability and terrorism?

by Editorial

File photo. Abdul Majeed—AFP

Earlier this month, the Defense Ministry submitted to the Supreme Court a report detailing Pakistan’s security situation, including threats from cross-border terrorism, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and instability from hostile foreign agencies—i.e. India. The report sought to bolster the government’s bid to avoid general elections in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa until October, noting in particular the feared “spike in terrorism” if polls were conducted in a staggered manner rather than simultaneously nationwide.

The government’s report emphasizes on the court that polls prior to October are a risky proposition. In addition to potential foreign threats, it highlights the risk of instability as a result of “a charged environment in Punjab,” and also notes “several terror threats” against senior leaders of different political parties. These prevailing threats, it warns, could foment chaos and further deepen the existing political polarization. It stresses that the prevailing security situation requires the deployment of troops on both the eastern and western borders, further accusing Delhi of “frequent violations” along the Line of Control despite a ceasefire agreement. The report’s focus on India’s alleged plans against Pakistan is especially significant, as it indicates that the Army is primarily concerned with any potential fallout in border areas.

In addition to the report, the Defense Ministry filed a petition seeking simultaneous elections nationwide, which the Supreme Court rejected as “inadmissible.” Clearly, despite consensus between the government and the Army over general elections after the completion of Parliament’s constitutional term, the apex court remains unconvinced. However, the court has taken up another petition—filed by a citizen—seeking the conduct of general elections simultaneously nationwide, which the government is likely to pursue through a “nationalist” public opinion campaign that fears ill-intended policies from India. The key question now is whether the court—already embroiled in controversy over accusations of judicial overreach—will cave to the pressure or whether it will continue to call for elections in Punjab on May 14, months before they are to take place in the rest of the country.

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