Holding a peaceful election in 2013 would, perhaps, be one of the important milestones in countering the power and influence of the extremists
Within two months, nearly 90 million Pakistanis will vote to elect new federal and provincial governments. This democratic transition has been hailed as a major victory of Pakistan’s fledgling democracy beset by regional instability and a worsening domestic security climate.
During the first quarter of 2013, 35 of sectarian attacks have taken place in Karachi and Quetta. In the same period, at least 144 suicide bombings and attacks on state installations have taken place in various parts of the country. Given this unfortunate situation, there is a widespread fear that the forthcoming elections may entail unprecedented violence and god forbid high profile assassinations.
However, “violence” needs to be unpacked and examined in the context of Pakistani politics. There are three strands of violence which are independently and sometimes jointly working to create a semi-anarchic situation where citizens and political parties are insecure, the state seems to be on the retreat and the militant groups appear to be in the ascendant.
First, we are gripped by the larger, unholy alliance between al-Qaeda, the Taliban, especially the Pakistani factions, and the sectarian outfits such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), bolstered by other banned terrorist groups such as Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) etc. Details of these groups and the specific nature of their activities are all too well known and recorded by both Pakistani and foreign analysts. There is a strange paradox at work here. The state is under attack by these groups and at the same time, it is trying to explore the options of negotiating with these groups for some kind of a truce. The backdrop, of course, is the post-Nato situation in Afghanistan where Pakistan is keen to book a seat on the Afghan power table.
This strand of violence is affecting much of Fata (at least four agencies are battlegrounds between the Pakistan army and the militants), and Khyber Paktunkhawa province. The TTP has issued most brazen statements such as the one which urges people to stay away from the public rallies of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Awami National Party (ANP). The space for these relatively progressive and moderate parties is, therefore, shrinking with each passing day.
For instance, the ANP is likely to hold no rallies and only go for door-to-door campaigning. Its leadership has been advised by the party not to be physically present during the electoral campaign. The PPP chairperson, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, is not in the country, and while speculation on his departure has been reported in the press, however, the actual situation is not being deliberated which relates to the simple fact that Bilawal Bhutto is not secure in Pakistan given the fact that his mother Benazir Bhutto was killed five years ago after an election rally in Rawalpindi. Continue reading