Pakistan gears up to historic elections

May 9, 2013 | By More

Pakistan’s election run-up has been marred by violence with the Taliban targeting secular parties, while allowing religious and conservative parties to campaign unhindered.

human rights observers pakistan gears up for historic election intl. news

The biggest party in the country is the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has lost its greatest hope. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is now in Dubai where it is safer. He does not want to suffer the same fate as his mother, who was assassinated in December 2007.

“I wanted to campaign with you and to be on the streets of Pakistan,” he said in a recent video message. “But the murderers of the martyr Benazir Bhutto are waiting for me.”

“After years of military dictatorship Benazir brought democracy back to Pakistan,” he continued.

Bullets and bombs

Although the PPP has been using Benazir Bhutto to campaign with, those party leaders who are still alive are practically nowhere to be seen. One reason is the manifold corruption scandals of the past five years. The more important reason, however, is the fact that bullets and bombs have decided the direction the campaign would take.

The Pakistani Taliban have declared war against Pakistan’s three biggest liberal parties – the PPP, the Awami National Party (ANP), and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) – and not a day goes by without another victim.

“It has completely undermined the fairness of the elections,” says I.A. Rehman, the director of the Pakistani human rights commission. He says that although equality of chances belongs to free and fair elections there is no fairness here but only fear. He worries that the state will move to the religious right. “In my opinion it will be a setback.”

Very survival of Pakistan on the line

Conservative and religious parties such as Nawaz Sharif’s Muslim League or Imran Khan’s Movement for Justice have been able to campaign unhindered, going ahead with mass electioneering events without condemning the Taliban. Both have said they will negotiate with the extremists if they win.

Rehman thinks this is a dangerous strategy. “Our political parties are so immature that they’re only thinking of short-term advantages,” he says. They do not realize that Pakistan could fall into the hands of extremists. The “very survival of Pakistan” is on the line, he warns.

The election commission has already declared about 50 percent of the 70,000 polling stations sensitive zones. However, nobody – even those parties that are being attacked – wants to cancel the elections.

“I think we just have to go through this mess,” says historian Ayesha Jalal. She argues that the problem won’t just go away – it will come back as “a monster.” She says that the tragedy is that the state is inefficient and unjust. “Yet Pakistanis have no choice but to revive it.”

The results will also depend on the courage of the voters after an unfair, bloody campaign. Five years ago, the turnout was 44 percent.

Associated press journalist for human rights observers – Dawar shah reports from the region.


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Category: International

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