Even with a strengthened resolve of the people to maintain the sanctity of democracy and exercise their rights as citizens to vote and participate in the process, none is protected against anti-state elements. This was the case five years ago and it is the case now. Several major explosions have occurred this month, particularly in Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, claiming 180 lives and injuring 200 people. IED and suicide attacks in Bannu, Chaman, and Mastung targeted security forces, political candidates and their faithful followers. A chilling memory from 2014 was rehashed when the Mastung blast on July 13th at a political rally killed 149 people, a number eerily close to the death toll from the Army Public School massacre. The precarious security conditions this year, despite making some strides in defence against terror elements since the APS attack, have rightfully provoked the EU to surprise our forces with a spontaneous visit to examine our security infrastructures.
Similar casualty numbers have been reported this election season, if not more, as the last election season in May 2013. Although our thresholds were reached long ago, the country’s security apparatus is still overburdened and ill-equipped to fend off terror attacks. The anxiety of authorities over the surprise visit on July 20 by EU observers speaks for itself. Since elections are only a few days away, little can be done now but a more aggressive plan to fight terrorism will be required as Pakistan just witnessed one of the deadliest terrorist attacks ever in its history. This happened despite the security installations vis-à-vis the National Action Plan.
Rightfully so, citizens should be fearful about reporting to the polls, even if the EU observers seem reassured. Last time, violence on days building up to the polls and on the day of the poll did not let up and since then, the country has experienced its two most deadly attacks in history. While the willpower of citizens to uphold the tenets of democracy is refreshing to observe, there is something highly unsettling about the imminent Election Day.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2018.