Pakistan’s dangerous polls

While analysts are speculating that the forthcoming parliamentary elections in Pakistan will be a game changer, there are forces at work trying to coerce people into staying at home on the day of the polls.

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Published: Tue 30 Apr 2013, 9:15 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 10:36 AM

The electioneering efforts of major political parties — the Pakistan People’s Party, Muttahida Qaumi Movement and Awami National Party—have been targeted by terrorism in recent weeks. Every day, the Taleban, determined to derail upcoming elections, are bombing offices and conventions of political parties and attacking politicians in Karachi, Quetta and Peshawar.

Their assault has been brazen and consistent, and have brought life in the country’s busy commercial hub, Karachi, to a near standstill. At the turn of a major historic event in Pakistan’s history — the unprecedented completion of tenure by a democratic government — the attacks on representatives of democracy show the tightening grip of extremism in the country. Persistant attacks by militants during election period is a new phenomenon in Pakistan and bears a disturbing similarity to elections in Afghanistan, where forthcoming presidential elections are bound to face a formidable challenge by the ever-burgeoning militancy.

But perhaps even more disturbing than this offensive of bombs and bullets, is the fact that political parties are not making a concerted effort to condemn this assault on democratic politics. For once, Pakistan’s political parties should momentarily forget their myriad ideological difference, and collectively condemn the militants. At this critical point in time, Pakistan’s political forces should be united in declaring Taleban pariahs, who have no place in the country’s future. The religious parties and influential religious leaders must participate in this endeavour, especially since hundreds of clerics have declared a fatwa making voting a religious obligation.

If these attacks by militants are not vociferously condemned, it will only adversely affect voter turnout on polling day. Pakistanis, especially the young lot, are desperate to cast their votes and make a change. And it would be most unfortunate if these dastardly attacks result in a low voter turnout.

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