News / Asia

Violence Overshadows Pakistan Election Season

Pakistani soldiers stand guard outside a district court as election commission workers carry election materials in Hyderabad, May 8, 2013.
Pakistani soldiers stand guard outside a district court as election commission workers carry election materials in Hyderabad, May 8, 2013.
Ayaz Gul
— Pakistan is set to witness its first democratic transition when national polls are held on Saturday. But militant and other violence continue to overshadow the election season, leaving more than 100 people dead and scores more wounded since late April.
 
Contesting parties and candidates have to officially end the three-week campaign for the May 11 polls before midnight on Thursday. But the lead-up to the election has turned out to be one of the bloodiest in Pakistan’s history.  
 
What's at Stake?

  • Voters choose members of the National Assembly, or lower house parliament
  • 342 seats, 60 are reserved for women, 10 are reserved for religious minorities
  • Seats are distributed by region:
    Federally Administered Tribal Area -  12 seats
    Federal Capital, Islamabad - 2 seats
    Punjab Province - 183 seats
    Sindh Province - 75 seats
    Khyber Pakhtunkhaw Province -  43 seats
    Baluchistan Province - 17 seats

  • Voters also electing members of four provincial assemblies
Taliban militants have carried out almost daily bomb attacks on political offices, public rallies and other events connected to the elections.  The nation-wide violence has left dozens of people dead including several candidates and has effectively prevented many key politicians from openly campaigning. 
 
The former ruling Pakistan Peoples Party or PPP along with its coalition partners, namely the Awami National Party (ANP) and the Muttahida Qaumai Movement (MQM), have borne the brunt of the Taliban attacks. 
 
The three secular parties are staunchly opposed to the Islamist militancy. They had backed the army’s actions to clear Pakistan’s volatile northwest of the Taliban. 
 
Senator Farhatullah Babar of the former ruling party says Taliban attacks have severely hampered the three parties from campaigning and it could hurt them at the polls. 
 
A man injured in a bomb blast during an election campaign rally of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam religious party at Kurram agency, sits at a hospital in Peshawar May 6, 2013.A man injured in a bomb blast during an election campaign rally of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam religious party at Kurram agency, sits at a hospital in Peshawar May 6, 2013.
x
A man injured in a bomb blast during an election campaign rally of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam religious party at Kurram agency, sits at a hospital in Peshawar May 6, 2013.
A man injured in a bomb blast during an election campaign rally of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam religious party at Kurram agency, sits at a hospital in Peshawar May 6, 2013.
“This is the first election in Pakistan in which the progressive, liberal and democratic parties have been publicly threatened by the militants and extremists that they will not be allowed to participate in the electioneering. And the field is open for all other political parties but for these three political parties," he said. 

This week’s back-to-back bombings of two rallies of a leading Islamic party, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), have strengthened views the Taliban are opposed to democracy and are targeting anyone taking part in the elections
 
Main Political Parties Fielding Candidates
  • Pakistan Peoples Party or PPP
  • Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz or PML-N
  • Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-i-Azam) or PML-Q
  • Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf or PTI

Regional and Ethnic Parties
  • Muttahida Quami Movement or MQM
  • Awami National Party or ANP
  • Baluchistan National Party (Mengal)
  • National Party

Religious Political Parties
  •  Jamaat-i-Islami (JI)
  • Jamiat Ulema Islam (Fazlur Rehman) or JUI-F.
The violence against the largely secular Pakistani parties is seen by many as benefiting their rivals from right-wing political and religious groups known for being sympathetic to the conservative Islamic forces.    A spokesman for the religious-based party, Jan Achakzai, rejects claims that his party is benefiting from the violence, and he  blames the violence on the what he says is the failure of the secular parties to fight corruption.  
 
“It is absolutely a false characterization.  Yes, we have this violence it is because of the past policies of the coalition government. They embezzled money from the U.S. under the name of anti-terrorism. They did not formulate an [effective] anti-terror strategy," he said. 

Tahira Abdullah, a human rights activist and accredited election observer, says that militancy alone is not what is making the current election campaign one of bloodiest. She says that past interventions through military coups and through pro-army political forces in the democratic process are also to be blamed for rising intolerance in the Pakistani society.  
 
“Every few years we see a derailing of the democratic process whether it is the election process or the legislative process or dismissing of governments or the judiciary is tolerant or not tolerant. So there are a number of factors, it is a multi dimensional issue as to why and how these elections 2013 have turned so violent and so blood thirsty," she said.

According to recent public opinion polls Nawaz Sharif’s party (Pakistan Muslim League, PML-N) is expected to win Saturday’s parliamentary elections. The two-time former prime minister has been apparently able to capitalize on failures of the outgoing coalition government to tackle the power crisis, economic challenges and the Taliban insurgency.  
 
Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s party has also become a leading contender in the elections. Both Sharif and Khan have supported talks with Taliban insurgents to end the militancy in the country.  
 
Meanwhile an extremely subdued election campaign is being witnessed in southwestern Baluchistan province but that is mainly due to attacks by Baluch separatists. 
 
Only 44 percent Pakistani voters showed up in the election 2008. Authorities have employed tens of thousands of regular and paramilitary troops to ensure safety of the voters but observers are worried about a low turnout if violent attacks continue into Saturday.

You May Like

Uganda Court Annuls Anti-Gay Law

Court says law was passed in parliament without enough members present for a full quorum More

Multimedia Thailand Makes Efforts to Improve Conditions for Migrant Laborers

In Thailand, its not uncommon for parents to bring their children to work; one company, in-collaboration with other organizations, address safety concerns More

In Indonesia, Jihad Video Raises Concern

Video calls on Indonesians to join Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborersi
X
Steve Herman
August 01, 2014 6:22 PM
Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborers

Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video Public Raises its Voice on Power Plant Pollution

In the United States, proposed rules to cut pollution from the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants are generating a heated debate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, charged with writing and implementing the plan, has already received 300,000 written comments. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, another 1,600 people are lining up this week at EPA headquarters and at satellite offices around the country to give their testimony in person.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

The public in China is welcoming the Communist Party's decision to investigate one of the country's once most powerful politicians, former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang. Analysts say the move by President Xi Jinping is not only an effort to win more support for the party, but an essential step to furthering much needed economic reforms and removing those who would stand in the way of change. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.

AppleAndroid