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The defence establishment on Wednesday again sought to quash fears about the military’s role in the coming general election and said it had no intention of interfering in the electoral process.

Asif-Yasin-Malik“There is no political or election cell in any agency, nor does the military intend to interfere in the election,” Defence Secretary Lt-Gen (retd) Asif Yasin Malik told reporters after attending a meeting of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Defence.

This was the third time over the past week when the defence establishment issued statements emphasising that it would remain neutral in the election expected in May.

The repeated messaging is apparently meant to address lingering doubts about the holding of polls and their transparency.

The National Assembly and provincial legislatures will complete their five-year tenure by the middle of next month.

Gen Malik insisted that the military would not be “monitoring” the election.

Scepticism about army’s role abounds as the country gets closer to the election. There have been fears about the election not being held on time, as have been other concerns about interference by the military.

The military commanders had on several occasions during the past five years privately expressed their reservations over governance issues. There were at least two occasions — Kerry Lugar Aid legislation in the US and memo scandal — when the civil-military tiff came to the fore.

Chief of Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had over the weekend told a group of journalists that he had a dream that “free, fair and transparent elections take place on time”.

He said the civilian set-up was completing five years and the army had kept itself clear of political matters during this period.

Army’s spokesman Maj-Gen Asim Bajwa had conveyed a similar message during his media interaction last week. “We fully support free, fair and timely elections in the country.

“We have been supporting the present political set-up during the past five years and will not get anything if elections are delayed.”

US BASE: At the meeting of the NA committee, the defence secretary denied that the US Army Corps of Engineers had been permitted to build a ‘Tactical command and operations centre’ at the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi for counter-narcotics operations.

“I assure you that no such permission has been granted by the ministry of defence to the US army for constructing a base at Karachi airport,” he told the legislators. The secretary said an online advertisement seeking expression of interest for constructing such a facility at the Karachi airport was being investigated.

SECURITY: He also said that the security of military installations had been beefed up because of serious threats they faced. There was a serious threat to military installations, particularly those of the navy and air force, he said.

Army commandos, he said, had been deployed for the protection of the Pakistan Air Force and Navy facilities.

BAHRIA TOWN: The committee was told that the Bahria Town real estate development group was using the name illegally.

“The name Bahria was used on a temporary injunction/stay order and is void of legal footing,” a statement issued by the committee said.

The Bahria Town management, it said, had promised to change the name to ‘Safari Town (Pvt) Ltd’, but had not done so.

The committee asked the defence ministry to help the Bahria Foundation in legal proceedings against the Bahria Town management.

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