The fast escalating acts of violence across the length and breadth of Pakistan cast dark shadows over May 11 polls as people doubt they could actually take place. These elections are undoubtedly proved to be the bloodiest in country’s 66 year history, scaring away both politicians and voters, as bombs are going off in election rallies and offices of candidates on almost daily basis, leaving at least two candidates and around one hundred political workers and bystanders killed so far. The polling has already been postponed in two constituencies, one in Karachi and other in North West province Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where candidates were killed.
Despite that the country is witnessing a massive campaign on electronic media for the first time after the mushrooming emergence of TV channels, the man on the street still fears for his life at the polling station, and is not sure of returning safe and healthy after casting the vote. Senior journalists close to official quarters say they are not sure if the polls would take place at all if the violence goes unchecked and, God forbid, struck any top political leader before May 11.
The incessant and Iraq-style twin-bombings at the poll rallies reminds one of similar bombings in pre-2007 Iraq where dozens of people were killed on almost a daily basis through this technique. Though Pakistan’s caretaker government and the media put all the blame of violence on Tehrik Taliban Pakistan (TTP), and never care to examine the remarkable similarity these bombings have with those Iraqis had witnessed.
In the twin-bombing, two remote controlled bombs go off within a span of 10 to 12 minutes, with the second bomb going off when the rescuers and police were busy retrieving dead and wounded at the scene. Those having an eye on the sabotage activities of international secret agencies are unanimous that such twin-bombings are a signature style of Black Water, the biggest private army operating all over the world from the U.S. soil.
The pre-poll violence is mostly concentrated in three smaller provinces of the country, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and Baluchistan, strangely leaving Punjab, the largest province. The violence is mostly targeting the liberal nationalist parties like the former-communists, Awami National Party (ANP) which is mostly concentrated in KP, Karachi and Quetta; the MQM based in urban areas of Sindh, headed by fire-brand self-exiled leader Altaf Hussain, and president Asif Zardari’s PPP. The bombs have also targeted JUI-F led by Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the mentor of Afghanistan’s Taliban, and other smaller nationalist-cum-separatist parties based in Sindh and Baluchistan.
The man on the street still fears for his life at the polling station, and is not sure of returning safe and healthy after casting the voteMansoor Jafar
Some observers question this violence pattern of targeting the nationalist parties and sparing the moderate right wing parties like PML-N, led by twice prime minister Nawaz Sharif, and the PTI, led by cricketer-turned-philanthropist-turned-politician, Imran Khan, whose catchy slogan of bringing 'change' by ridding oft-tried corrupt politicians have worked like magic wand to pull a vast majority of youth behind him.
Interestingly, the campaign slogans/messages of the parties reflect a dismal picture regarding maturity of the electorate. Both PPP and PML-N, who run a coalition government at the center for the first three years and considered responsible for the poor state of affairs in the country, are merely relying on glorifying their past achievements and making tall promises of developments and relief to the masses, if voted in power. While Imran Khan’s PTI is raising the slogan of change, urging voters to reject the corrupt and tried politicians.
While the nationalist politicians are cowardly running their political campaigns under heavy security cordons, the party led by former military dictator General [retired] Pervez Musharraf has announced boycotting the polls after the High Court imposed a life-ban on him from contesting polls last week. Insiders in his party, All Pakistan Muslim League (APML), say General Musharraf saved his skin by boycotting the polls since his party had hardly any success chance after his own candidature was rejected and he was left with only a handful of candidates to contest with bleak chances.
In pole position?
General Musharraf, under house arrest in his palatial farm house for his involvement in Benazir Bhutto murder case, has some more tough time to see in the coming days as the official prosecutor in the case was assassinated two days ago by unknown gunmen in broad day light when he was going to the court. This is the mysterious murder of second prosecutor/investigator working on cases involving top government officials during last six months. Another government investigator probing the case of kick backs charges against former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf in rental power plants was found mysteriously hanged from ceiling fan inside his dormitory room six months back.
Except for Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif, the positions of other politicians are in quite disarray. The hitherto ruling party, the PPP, is running an embarrassing campaign with its chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari practically hiding in his Dubai Palace, in the face of alleged threats to his life. Bilawal is leading the campaigning from Dubai with telephonic addresses to electoral rallies. To the frustration of party supporters, he is not inclined to make such addresses on daily basis.
Similarly, Altaf Hussain who is known for hours long telephonic speeches from his exiled luxury home in London, is also finding difficult to address rallies since several bombs have targeted MQM rallies in Karachi. Pushton leader and head of nationalist party ANP Asfandyar Wali Khan has practically been running his party from unknown hiding places in Islamabad and Peshawar for the last three years after he narrowly missed death in two bomb blasts at his rallies.
The only two politicians running massive campaigning in Punjab province are Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan. One wonders if Taliban are supporting both of them and they win the election whether it can be termed as success of Taliban who vehemently oppose Western democracy and wish to remain stick to their guns and goons for achieving their so called reformist agenda.
Mansoor Jafar is Editor of Al Arabiya Urdu based at Islamabad. He can be reached through Twitter: @mansoorjafar
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