In the 1960’s Richard Nixon, reflecting on race riots in America, tried to define the difference between riots and other types of violent conflict. “Riots are spontaneous. Wars require advance planning,” he said. However, Pakistan is faced with concerted and well coordinated violence from different militant groups for the last decade. Also, the electoral violence is nothing new for Pakistanis but this time around political leaders and election offices of some selective political parties are being targeted.
It appears to be a well-thought-out strategy of the militants based in tribal region of Pakistan to target only leaders and political gatherings of the progressive and liberal political parties. If we go by the number of attacks carried out by the militants in different parts of the country and against different political parties, it pans out as thirteen incidents of electoral violence claimed 23 lives while 54 others received critical injuries in the last week only. The Free and Fair Election Network, a non-government organisation that monitors elections in Pakistan, says that ten incidents of political violence left 24 people dead and 28 injured during this week, compared with the preceding week’s 170 killed and 42 injured in 20 incidents.
So, there is a long list of electoral violence in the country that is worrisome for not only Pakistanis but also the international organizations. In the electoral violence, political leaders of different political parties are killed while election offices of the parties are blown up in different areas including Karachi. Militant groups have directly threatened leaders of the political parties, saying election rallies and offices of the parties would be targeted. Taliban and their associates are generally deemed anti-democracy but the question arises that if they are against democracy and elections in Pakistan, then why they are targeting only a few specific political parties.
There appears to be something fishy behind the well-coordinated electoral violence. A few Taliban apologists also say that the political parties are being targeted for they have been pursuing war against terror during their reign on behest of the United States. As hundreds of the militants were killed in the war; therefore they (terrorists) are now taking avenge from these parties. Having gone through the pattern of electoral violence, one thing can be assumed with quite certainty that the militants are endeavoring to establish their agenda by posing them a key stakeholder.
If the violence continues with the same intensity, there is strong likelihood that a few parties may announce election boycott. Also, the turnout at the polling stations would be meager, leaving a huge question mark at credibility of the elections. If cogent efforts are not made to curb the electoral violence, the militants and their accomplices can also disrupt polling stations, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, on the Election Day.
The gravity of the electoral violence has also forced the Amnesty International to urge Pakistani authorities to ensure security for political leaders and election rallies being held in different parts of the country. The authorities must ensure adequate protection for those at risk of attack and in particular protect the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association and the right to life, the Amnesty International said in an open letter to Pakistani authorities. The elections slated for May 11 are going to make a history in Pakistan as it would be the first transition from one civilian government to another; therefore efforts should be made to make it peaceful and serene.