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

As US Strikes Syria, China Sees Parallels at Home

Beijing is debating how much support to give international coalition against IS militants and trying to figure out how many Chinese nationals may have joined group overseas More

CDC: Ebola Could Infect 1.4 M by 2015

US health officials say if efforts to curb the outbreak are not increased, cases will soar dramatically by early next year More

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in 5 Countries

US Agency for International Development partners with celebrities to call attention to importance of education for girls worldwide 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.
Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'i
X
Scott Stearns
September 23, 2014 10:52 PM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video US, Gulf Allies Strike Islamic State Militants in Syria

United States forces have carried out strikes against Islamic State or ISIL militant positions in Syria - the first time Western forces have taken action on Syrian soil. Five U.S. allies from the Gulf joined the military action. Local reports suggest dozens of militants were killed. The U.S. also carried out unilateral missile strikes against a Syria-based terror group which Washington says poses an imminent threat to the West. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video High Intensity Focused Ultrasound Used to Kill Cancer Tumor

There is a new way of killing certain cancer tumors that allows the patient to go home on the same day. Surgeons at the Keck Medical Center of the University of Southern California became the first doctors to use this procedure on a patient with the help of high intensity focused ultrasound, or HIFU, and new robotic technology. Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in Five Countries

Hollywood stars Alicia Keys, Jennifer Garner and 30 others have voiced their support for a U.S.-backed initiative called "Let Girls Learn." The $231 million program, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, is aimed at ensuring public and quality education for girls worldwide. As VOA's Mariama Diallo reports, this new program will focus on five countries in Africa, South Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.
Video

Video UN: Relocation of Bedouins in Israel Weakens Two-state Solution

Rural Bedouins living in disputed lands east of Jerusalem could soon find themselves forcibly relocated. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Jerusalem that while Israel defends the move as in the Bedouins’ best interests, the United Nations says the plan threatens the survival of the two-state solution with Palestinians.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Prolonged Drought Plagues SW Oklahoma Farmers

Parts of western Texas and southwestern Oklahoma have been in drought conditions for several years running and the deficit in rainfall has taken a heavy toll on cotton and grain production. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin says the state has suffered $2 billion in agricultural losses since 2011. There has been rain in recent weeks, but, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Altus, Oklahoma, for most farmers it has been too late.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid