It was a telling indicator of the danger faced by certain political parties that the ANP’s Bashir Jan showed up at a press conference wearing a bulletproof jacket.
Along with him were representatives from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the Pakistan Peoples Party. The former Sindh coalition partners, all of whom are now being targeted by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, stood together in a rare show of unity at the Karachi press club on Monday. Their joint message was that, despite repeated attacks, they were firm in their desire to contest the elections, which they demanded must be held on time.
“This is a conflict of ideologies” said PPP General Secretary Taj Haider. “This is not a law and order crisis, but a battle of mindsets.”
MQM’s Haider Abbas Rizvi agreed, saying that the country was being divided on ideological grounds.
“On the one hand, progressive and peace-loving parties like ours are facing attacks from terrorists, and on the other, political parties that support militants are campaigning freely.” He added that though his party did not want bloodshed, it had the right to defend itself.
Haider said that mere condemnation of violence from the leaders of other political parties wasn’t good enough, adding that there was a clear and present danger to the PPP.
“Last night our posters in Manghopir were torn down and replaced with slogans saying that the future of PPP’s voters is death,” he said.
He claimed that the rangers were arresting innocent people in Essa Nagri and Lyari, and said that they had requested for a judicial commission to probe the issue. “If we can fight against Zia, we can also fight against his followers,” said Haider.
MQM leader Raza Haroon also questioned as to why other political parties were silent on the attacks. Though they have often been at loggerheads in the past, all the leaders unanimously criticised the election commission and the caretaker government, accusing the current setup of giving a free hand to the terrorists.
“The scrutiny process of the election commission is in front of everyone, as is the way they humiliated candidates. Ayaz Amir was rejected, and then his party ditched him,” said Haider. He said that while strict scrutiny was reserved for some, according to news reports, more than 60 terrorists had been given permission by the election commission to contest elections.
Bashir Jan of the ANP said the election commission was disobeying its own rules. “It is in front of you how some parties are spending so lavishly on the campaign, while others are openly doing wall chalking which is supposed to be banned.”
Jan, who himself faces death threats, said that the election commission and the caretaker government were on the same page. “It seems that they don’t want to hold elections or they want to bring in those parties whom they support,” he said. “I have survived two bomb blasts and I can tell you that the ANP will never bow down to terrorists.”
While they all said the security situation was far from satisfactory, they parried questions regarding army deployment in the city, and whether they would call for it.
But the caretaker government and election commission weren’t the only targets of the former coalition partners’ rage, who also accused the US and UK of supporting right wing parties. “We know the game of how the West wants to hand over this region to the right wing parties,” said Haider.
Rizvi said that both the national and international establishments were supporting ring wing parties. He said that they had not forgotten how the West left Afghanistan after the Soviet Withdrawal, and handed over power to those who later carried out the 9/11 attacks and the 7/7 bombings in London.
The leaders appealed to the United Nations and international human rights organisations to see how liberal parties were being attacked, and how only those parties who had ‘soft corners’ for the religious extremists were being allowed to campaign. They called for a free and transparent election and said that parties should have right to campaign in secure environment.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 30th, 2013.