Will Taliban Violence Stall Elections?

Pakistani political candidates threatened  by Taliban terror attacks.

taliban-electionsPakistan is moving towards its tenth general elections on May 11, 2013. However, the festivities associated with elections are missing. The reason is not the disbelief in the electoral process or the political parties; at least not in the two provinces of Sindh and Khyber Pukhtunkhaw (KP) where fear among the voters by bomb blasts forces candidates to maintain a low profile.

Ever since the election schedule has been announced by the Election Commission of Pakistan (March 22, 2013), the total number of bomb blasts across Pakistan is 94 resulting in killing some 209 people and injuring some 642 people. The worst hit by the terrorism are KP, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), and Sindh (Karachi).

However the Pakistani liberal party Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), with a stronghold in Karachi, has long claimed the presence of Taliban in the city. The outlawed terrorist group Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has not claimed responsibility for any attacks prior to the January 2013 bombings. For many it is a consequence of the MQM party chief’s call for the referendum in last November demanding a rejection of the social agenda being pushed by the Taliban by terrorizing people.

MQM has raised the issue of Talibanization of Karachi

Although the referendum never took place, the TTP threatened harsh consequences. Furthermore, the secular Awami National party (ANP) is also being targeted in KP province and TTP spokesman for Dera  Adamkhel and Khyber Agency in FATA issued threats against ANP and MQM.

Karachi, the largest hub of economic activities, experienced some three dozen major incidents the previous year. In the first quarter of 2013, the number has already reached a dozen. The rate of acceleration of terrorist activities clearly indicates the government’s loss of control. This despite a 127 percent and 105 percent increase in the direct cost in defense and public safety sectors during the last five years.

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The regional political dynamics and its impact on the internal security dynamics have made the crisis multidimensional whereby the political-security-development nexus have caused the spiral process affecting all segments of society and now the political parties. Not to mention the challenges that would be posed by transnational terrorism once the international coalition forces withdraw from Afghanistan.

Khalida Ghaus is the former Director of the Centre of Excellence for Women Studies; Chairperson in the Department of International Relations, University of Karachi, and Pakistan Centre for Democracy Studies. She is currently serving as the Managing Director of Social Policy and Development Centre in Karachi. Khalida has a PhD in International Relations. Read more articles by Khalida.