It is a matter of concern that Pakistan’s elections are being steered and monitored by the deadly banned, non-state actor Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). We had assumed that the Election Commission of Pakistan and neutral caretaker administrations would be managing the elections oversight but such is the state of Pakistan that the TTP are calling the shots as to who can freely participate in these elections. The recent statement issued by the TTP’s spokesperson makes it clear that political parties with a liberal and secular ideology are under threat. In particular, their support to the military operations against terror outfits is being cited as the key reason for such attacks.
The election campaign has sadly left a divided and blood-stained Pakistan. In Punjab, major parties are running their campaigns freely while in the three smaller provinces, there have been dozens of attacks leading to over 40 deaths in the past fortnight. The major brunt of this violence has been borne by the Awami National Party (ANP), which has lost over 700 workers and high profile leaders in the past few years. In Karachi, the MQM is facing the wrath for its moderate politics and its workers and election offices have been attacked repeatedly. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has also been attacked with its top leadership facing dire security threats.
The TTP has also made it clear that it opposes the secular democratic system and its affiliate, al Qaeda, has already declared the Pakistani Constitution un-Islamic. Echoing the decades-old mantra of the right-wing, the TTP spokesperson also said that “a man cannot be secular and Muslim at the same time”. In a country where the majority has been influenced by Islamist rhetoric, political forces would need to join hands and struggle against this grave threat to democracy.
The situation becomes even more alarming when the major leaders from parties that have been spared the attacks are hesitating to condemn the TTP-led violence. In fact, their election campaign has not even referred to the issue of extremism. This does not augur well for the evolution of the democratic system in the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 1st, 2013.
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