In the run-up to what can be called the bloodiest elections in the country’s history, Pakistan Peoples Party along with Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Awami National Party (ANP) remained largely absent from election campaigns.
Before Bilawal Bhutto’s final video address in Islamabad, the PPP leadership, unlike the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Jamaat-e-Islami, did not hold rallies or corner meetings across the country. Similarly, the MQM and ANP’s activities remained limited.
While they always managed to make it to the headlines, it was, unfortunately, for all the wrong reasons. The parties were targeted in their very own political strongholds when attacks were carried out at their rallies, election offices and corner meetings.
“Wherever our candidates tried to hold rallies, blasts or firing incidents occurred. Even then our workers and candidates remained undeterred,” said a PPP leader.
The former ruling party nevertheless tried to compensate their absence by advertising heavily.
The MQM paid a hefty price with its election offices being attacked with bombs and their candidates and workers being killed in incidents of target shootings. Party leader Altaf Hussain and the party’s deputy convener Farooq Sattar protested against the violence but to no avail.
ANP was the worst sufferer of terrorist attacks. Bashir Ahmed Bilour, a key ANP leader, was killed in a bomb blast ahead of ANP’s election campaign in Peshawar.
Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) besides issuing a general threat to people asking them to stay away from elections, declared the party ‘un-Islamic’. The militants said ANP, MQM and the PPP were secular and vowed to sabotage their campaign.
PTI chief Khan and N-League’s Sharif brothers remained dominant throughout the election campaign. The PPP, MQM, and ANP accused these two parties of enjoying a ‘free-hand’ and general amnesty from terrorists.
PML-N chief and his brother Shahbaz Sharif held 70 major rallies over the last 25 days across Pakistan. The PTI chief held 70 rallies in different cities.
Again, former ruling parties alleged that election campaigns ran only in Punjab, while the other three provinces suffered from terrorist activities.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 10th, 2013.