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Pakistanis ready to go to polls despite high terror threats

Pakistanis ready to go to polls despite high terror threats

ISLAMABAD  (PPA) — Despite ongoing threat of terrorism and weakening economic scenario, Pakistanis are adamant to go to polls on July 25, 2018, amid hopes for a big change in a traditional political system that has disappointed people badly following last two elections.

As of July 22, 2018, three leading politicians from Pakistani Awami Party of Balochistan, Awami National Party, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf had so far been killed in suicide attacks which also injured more than 300 people across the country.

Pakistan People’s Party’s young leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, rising politician of PTI, Imran Khan and Awami National Party leader Asfanyar Wali all are facing threats and have been advised to take maximum care for their own and party members’ safety. Nevertheless, all the politicians and their workers remained fully active and holding public meetings and visiting their constituencies irrespective of threats and fears. Even religious party alliance, MMA leaders have also received threats from different militant groups and insurgents mostly sitting inside Afghanistan.

The Baloch insurgents have aligned with Islamic State-Khurasan group, also based in Afghanistan and are warning politicians to face consequences if they participate in elections in Balochistan. The ISIS-K claimed the responsibility of the killing of Mr. Siraj Raisani, leader of Pakistan Awami Party in Balochistan early this month. The attack also killed 151 and injured more than 250 people taking part in an election rally. Mr. Siraj was known as a patriotic Pakistan and had challenged the foreign-sponsored Baloch insurgents.

The latest victim of terror attack was Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) candidate Sardar Ikramullah Gandapur who was martyred as a suicide bomber targetted his vehicle DI Khan’s Tehsil Kalachi on Sunday (July 22, 2018).  The PTI candidate was said to be leaving his home for an election meeting when his jeep was targetted. In 2013, Gandapur’s brother, Israrullah, who was then the provincial law minister, was killed in a suicide attack on his home.

On July 22, 2018, speaking to journalists in Karachi, PTI leader, Imran Khan also revealed that when he was on his elections campaign in KP, two suicide bombers were sent to target him. PTI sources say that he had to change the timing of his arrival at meeting more than thrice but he did attend the meeting.

On July 11, 2018, in a first major terror attack in months, the Awami National Party (ANP) senior leader and provincial assembly candidate for PK-78 Haroon Bilour, was killed and 34 others injured when a blast targeted a corner meeting of the party at around midnight.

A religious alliance, MMA, candidate and a leader JUI-F Akram Khan Durrani remained unhurt in yet another attack in Bannu on July 22, 2018. This was the second attack on the former Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa chief minister, who is contesting the election from Bannu. Earlier, another MMA leader, Shireen Malik’s rally came under attack in Gora Baka Khel while Durrani’s convoy was targeted in an IED blast in Huwaid.

Both attacks took place in KP province which borders Afghanistan and security officials believe that most of the attacks are carried out by banned terrorist groups based in Afghanistan but they are able to send suicide bombers, as young as 17 years, and facilitators within Pakistan.

Officials say that it is impossible to control the flow of terrorists from Afghanistan as long as there is a tight control of the border and all Afghan refugees are sent back to their homeland. At present more than 20,000 people cross Pak-Afghan borders and more than 2.5 million Afghan refugees are still stationed in Pakistan.

Pakistan government have been struggling to send the Afghan refugees back, but UN agencies and some foreign governments are opposed to the idea claiming that they would face miserable conditions in Afghanistan and face a bleak future there. To meet their relatives and fellow tribes, thousands of people cross the border every day while hundreds come and go for the trade and medical treatment.

“It is very difficult to check each and every one, every day and at every crossing points”, complained Shahbaz Khan, a security official deployed at the Tourkham border. He also claimed that “if we check the women, there is always a threat of mob protests.”

As elections are just two days away, polls are predicting a victory for Imran Khan’s PTI followed by PMLN and PPP candidates. The situation in Punjab really matters as the majority of the seats are from that province which used to be a stronghold of PMLN,

However, now that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his stirrer daughter Maryam are in jail and party leadership’s pro-India stance has marginalized it future prospects, the voters may swing towards PTI and PPP which remains powerful in Sindh.

Traditionally tested 3Bs magic (Biraderi, Biryani, and Bribe) may not work this time as social media has become too strong to hide any of the B from public notice. There is also a general thinking to test a new party and new candidates as voters had been badly disappointed by the time-tested two traditional parties, PMLN and PPP.

The reputed daily Dawn which is considered by many as pro-Nawaz Sharif conducted a survey which indicated a big win for PTI. The survey asked “If you have to pick a party to vote for, which party would you choose? More than 85 percent voted for PTI.

Pakistanis, fed up with terrorism, corruption, mismanagement, nepotism, and failures of two previous governments to provide basic facilities such as clean water, education, electricity and safe and secure future, are certainly looking forward to a change.

“But even if there is no major change and traditional politicians somehow manage to return back, this time they would face the wrath of voters dangerously”, a political commentator, Saqlain Naqvi said.



About Saqlain Naqvi

Saqlain Naqvi is an Islamabad-based journalist who has also worked in PR sector previously.
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