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Expanse of the threat: Elections and security

April 17, 2013

THE attack on the convoy of the PML-N president in Balochistan conveys just how expansive and generalised is the threat of violence against politicians in the run-up to the May 11 elections. Tuesday’s attack, which killed three people, came after assaults on politicians belonging to the MQM, the ANP and the PPP. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has particularly been a source of concern given the frequency of violent acts there, but considering that an MQM candidate for the polls was murdered in Hyderabad recently, it would be erroneous to view the threat of electoral violence as specific to one area. Similarly, it would be incorrect to look at this threat as specifically aimed at a particular party or a set of parties — even if certain targets have been named by the militants. This is a threat to the system and all those associated with the system. It is sad that not too many in the political caravan realise this.

With each incident of violence, there is a new theory, and fear is sown in the minds of the people regarding security for electioneering and the elections. According to one theory doing the rounds, militants who are targeting politicians are doing so more because they want to contain some players rather than outright scuttle the elections. This view is fed by the notion that the militants have their own favourites for power through polls. In KP, both the ANP and the PPP have been warned against running election campaigns. As a consequence, there have been speculations about an election boycott by parties whose candidates have been attacked. The ANP has even spoken of a conspiracy behind the withdrawal of security cover for its poll candidates, asking its opponents to fight democratically instead of using violence to make their point.

This is not a party statement which should require other politicians to go through their priority lists and manifestos before they can support the ANP. Yet, the strong joint front these democrats, all in one boat, should have promptly put up is sorely missing. Instead, what we have are meek requests to the militants’ good sense and more categorical demands for security made of the interim government. The truth is that fighting an election as part of the greater movement for the continuation of the democratic order requires a certain kind of unity among contestants. The politicians have to only bear in mind Pakistanis’ commitment to the ideal and their aspirations to come up with the right, unanimous answer to the mischief-makers.