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April 29, 2013

Militants Target Pakistan's Candidates in Run-up to Elections

by Sharon Behn

Militants trying to influence Pakistan’s upcoming national elections have killed dozens of party faithful in the run-up to the May 11 balloting. The attacks in the volatile south and northwest have forced many candidates off the streets - and one of the targeted political parties is warning the validity of the national vote is at stake.
 
Shops in Karachi, Pakistan’s economic center, shut down following a bloody attack on the regional Muttahida Qaumi Movement party.
     
Targeted by the Taliban for its anti-militant stance, dozens of MQM supporters have been killed in the run-up to the May 11 national election.
 
MQM party leader Raza Haroon said the government has to boost its security efforts or risk an unfair election outcome.
 
“Without the prerequisite of peaceful environment, and a peaceful law and order situation, elections will be a big question mark, so the state has to really make sure it takes steps,” said Haroon.

The Taliban also has bombed the ANP, Awami National Party, for its secular politics.
 
ANP candidate Bashir Jaan, who just escaped the latest blast, which killed 12 people and injured dozens more, said campaigning has become impossible.
 
“When we go to canvass people, those people also start getting threats, death threats and extortion threats. We are not being allowed to run our election campaign in any way,” said Jaan.
 
In Karachi, a city known for its political party violence and intimidation, some people are being coerced into joining the political process, said rickshaw driver Mohammad Usman.
 
“I don’t want to vote, but you will do anything at gunpoint, what can we do, it’s forced on us. We are forced to join the rallies, too,” said Usman.
 
So far, rallies by parties who have veered away from criticizing the Taliban, like one held by PTI - Pakistan Tehreek-e-eInsaaf, and PML-N, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz - have escaped attacks.
 
Military, paramilitary and police are expected to secure polling stations in so-called sensitive areas on election day, May 11.