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

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Arkansas, North Carolina have approved similar laws that gay-marriage opponents say help maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals 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.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More