40 dead in a week: Violence across Pakistan raises fears for elections

"Taliban are on a major onslaught to destabilise the country and create chaos to shake people's faith in the state."


Afp December 24, 2012

ISLAMABAD: A surge of violence in northwest Pakistan culminating in the assassination of a senior provincial minister has raised fears of a renewed Taliban campaign that could threaten national elections, analysts say.

The province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the adjacent Federally-Administered Tribal Areas, which border Afghanistan, are on the frontline of the country's battle against Islamist militancy and are no strangers to violence.

But the past week has seen a noticeable rise in bloodshed, with more than 40 people killed in near-daily attacks. These culminated in Saturday's suicide bombing at a meeting of the Awami National Party (ANP) in Peshawar, the province's main city.

The blast, which killed nine including provincial number two Bashir Bilour, was claimed by the Pakistani Taliban, who said the minister was targeted in revenge for the death of one of the movement's "elders".

The surge of violence began on December 15 with a spectacular commando-style Taliban attack on Peshawar airport and also featured a car bomb near a local government office in Khyber tribal district that killed 21 people.

"The spate of attacks in recent days indicates the Taliban are on a major onslaught to destabilise the country and create chaos to shake people's faith in the state apparatus," political analyst and author Hasan Askari told AFP.

"It's part of their broader agenda to undermine the credibility of government and prove that the state apparatus is crumbling."

For the Taliban, killing a high-profile and outspoken critic such as Bilour has a double effect, Askari said: silencing an experienced and fearless adversary and striking fear into those who might think of following in his footsteps.

The coalition government led by the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) -- which also includes the ANP -- will complete its five-year term in March and insists elections will be held on time.

But no date has yet been announced for polls and there are rumours the ballot could be postponed if the security situation is deemed too precarious.

Retired Lieutenant General Talat Masood, a security and political analyst, said the Taliban were stepping up their assaults on political and military targets precisely to create this kind of anarchy.

"They will try to disrupt elections because they can flourish when the state  is weak -- there is a political vacuum and then people lose confidence in the government," he told AFP.

If elections go ahead successfully it will be the first time in Pakistan's turbulent history that an elected civilian government has completed a five-year term. Both Askari and Masood said the government would find it difficult to delay the vote, paving the way for a bloody campaign period.

Thursday is the fifth anniversary of the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, killed in a gun and suicide attack in the garrison city of Rawalpindi after addressing an election rally.

Brigadier Saad Khan, a former officer with the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency, warned the Taliban may continue their campaign with an attack on events marking the anniversary. These include a major speech by her son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the PPP chairman.

Khan described the security situation as grave, saying the militants were "waging a war for Peshawar". He compared it to the state of affairs before a major military offensive against militant hideouts and training camps in South Waziristan in 2009.

"The militants are moving with a plan (of) how and where to attack. They put pressure at one place and move to another," he said.

"It is a dynamic enemy and we are static. We are reactive they are proactive."

He criticised the current strategy for dealing with the militants as "half-hearted" and urged a more concerted effort to defeat them.

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COMMENTS (17)

Ch. Allah Daad | 8 years ago | Reply

Snakes of different colours and nationalities are out of their holes to postpone elections. First time in history of Pakistan, governments would change with vote and these snakes don't let it happen. If power shifts to common people to punish bad rulers and bring new ones, what would happen to these snakes who conspire against governments while playing golf and seek advice on phones from foreign masters. There will be no Pakistan if elections are not held on time.

ishrat salim | 8 years ago | Reply

@Hammad:

You are talking the language of US...NMW is a base from where only Afghanistan is disturbed ( for our benefit ), that is why only operation was done in SWW...the attack on us comes from those elements who fled SWW operation & given sheltered inside Afghanistan bordering Kunar & Nuristan under the influence of Fazlullah ( Maulana Radio ).Even US general & Governor of Nuristan / Kunar have conceeded that Fazlullal is very much there but since he & his men are not bringing harm on them, so they are not their priority....same argument is for us too in NWW area...this area is under Haqqani group who are under our control & does not harm us....but attacks are from those elements who have been driven back from SWW area...please try to understand before passing such comments....US & their vested interest has successfully managed to brain wash our literate fellows like you....bravo ! you & many like you took the bait....US wants us to open new front knowing too well that our Army is very thinly spread & it make it more easy to create more havoc than what it is today....US knows & realize that it is only our Army who are acting as a rock against their nefarious design...this has been briefed to the political heads too by our Army boss..that is why they are not able to take a political decision to take action in NWW....

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