Election campaign 2013 is being different from the previous campaigns for many reasons. There could be a long list of reasons but when it comes to consider the most significant thing then Electoral Violence seems to be one of them. It turned out to be the bloodiest election ever happened in the history of Pakistan. Although the denizens of Pakistan are not strangers to violence but it makes difference when it happens on such a large scale. Certainly, the noticeable raise of bloodshed raises many questions in such a critical situation.
During the entire period of campaign, the lives of the political leaders, workers, candidates, supporters were at the edge of threat. Incidents of politically-motivated violence and clashes between supporters and workers of different political parties proceeded throughout the campaign. Such incidents of political violence also expanded with the elections day approaching near. Political violence has long been a prominent feature of insecurity in Karachi but during the weeks preceding May 11th, 2013, these incidents were frequently reported from all provinces.
A total of 148 terrorist attacks were reported across Pakistan between January 1 and May 15– most of them in the months of April and May–that targeted political leaders and workers, election candidates, offices and rallies, and polling stations. As many as 170 people were killed and another 743 were injured in these attacks.
Out of total 148 terrorist’s attacks, 108 were perpetrated by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and associated local Taliban and other militant groups which claimed the lives of 156 people and injured 665 others. Baloch Nationalist Insurgents carried out 40 such attacks that killed 14 people and injured another 78.
The TTP and associates were mainly involved in carrying out such attacks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), and Karachi. Some of the attacks reported from Bolan, Kech, Kharan and Quetta districts of Balochistan were also perpetrated by the TTP.
Nonetheless, most of such attacks reported from Balochistan were carried out by different Baloch insurgent groups mainly Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) and Baloch Republican Army (BRA).
Awami National Party (ANP) faced maximum number of terrorist attacks between January 1 and May 15 (37), followed by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Mutahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) with 12 attacks each.
Aleem Adil Shiekh, a candidate of constituency (NA-127) belongs to the PPPP says, “I am not afraid of these threats. I receive calls threatening me all day long. I am here to serve people and fight for their rights. However, we have modified our ways of electoral campaign for the security of our party workers.”
Militants hit hard ANP and PPP in almost every region of Pakistan, MQM was frequently targeted in Karachi.
Party leaders, workers and candidates of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) were targeted in 10 terrorist attacks, mainly in Balochistan and Punjab.
Three factions of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazl, Sami and Nazriati or JUI-F, JUI-S and JUI-N,respectively) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) were also targeted by militants in parts of Sindh, Balochistan, KP and FATA.
As many as five terrorist attacks hit leaders and workers of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in KP and Punjab. Balochistan’s nationalist parties were also frequently targeted.
Meanwhile 19 attacks hit independent election candidates, their offices and rallies and 17 attacks targeted polling stations in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Militants used different attack tactics to hit their targets. Firing or direct shootout, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and bomb blasts were the most frequently used tactic by militants with 35, 27 and 26 reported attacks, respectively. Furthermore 24 hand grenades blasts, 17 remote controlled bomb blasts, nine rocket attacks, one landmine blast and three incidents of kidnapping were among the other foremost tactics used by the militants.
Talking about the violence spread in election campaign, SHO of Quaidabad police station Khalil Ahmed said, “the less expensive improvised explosive devices (IED) has been a great hurdle to control and stop the wave of violence. The terrorists can easily use them to destroy the targeted place in no time. We are trying our best to stop it as soon as possible however it will certainly take some time as it is not an easy task to do so.”
Despite of all the security measures taken by election commission of Pakistan, law enforcement agencies and caretaker government, the violence spread across the country even on the day of polling. On May 11, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and Baloch insurgent perpetrated 18 terrorist attacks killing 16 people and injuring 77 others.
The high security on highly sensitive polling stations and areas didn’t make any affect at all. Instead, the conflicts facilitated the momentum of violence especially in Karachi. On the other hand, these political conflicts created the issues of rigging, physical violence and abduction.
Moreover, under these unfavorable circumstances many Government employees just refused to work in polling stations for the sake of their safety. Despite of all the actions taken against it by the care taker government, a large segment was hesitant and few denied doing so. Bilquees Akhtar, a Government teacher said,” Frankly speaking, intentionally, I cannot go to a place where I don’t feel myself safe. Being a rational person I have to take care of a lot of things.”
Apparently, the main motives behind such deliberate manipulation of violence could be either the militancy didn’t want to hold the elections or they wanted the results of their choice.
Ms Raheela Yusuf, a lecturer, shares her views regarding the cause of this violence, “I believe that the terrorists are afraid of any change in our country. They are working on the anti-peace agenda hence cannot see the change coming after elections” she further added, “ in order to achieve their goals they are torturing people to safeguard their interests”
Political parties and public criticized the ECP, caretaker government, and law enforcement agencies for their failure to rein in terrorists. Anum Yaseen, a student of Political Science, expresses her feelings,” I think the caretaker government should have done something effective to protect the party candidates and workers.”
Due to inefficient performance of concerned authorities, people are compelled to think whether violence at that critical situation is the agenda of only militancy or it a combined shared agenda of concerned authorities with militancy. Therefore it seems like caretaker government along with law enforcement agencies and ECP is playing a role of silent spectators.
Looking on the other side of story, it can be observed although this unfavorable situation was created to create the panic, however, on some level it contributed to a good change as well, as it became the cause to unite the three liberal, democratic parties, PPPP, MQM and ANP on the same platform and to set aside their differences and helped them to work out a plane to avoid the threat.
Additionally, hesitant at first, people come out from their houses to cast their vote for the change in the country. The high turnout this year depicts the fact that people are very desperate for change. Electoral violence didn’t work well to make them afraid and force to stay at home on polling day.
As a matter of fact, the basic objective was to halt the smooth electoral process and create the disturbance in polling which was done without any shadow of doubt. Surprisingly despite massive destruction across country, this violence indirectly reinforced the reasons-on the basis of which people move forward to caste vote and express their Opinion to bring about the change.
|Province/region||district||No. of attacks||killed||Injured||responsible groups||targets|
|FATA||Bajaur Agency||2||2||0||TTP||ANP, JUI-F,JI,|
|North Wazeeristaan Agency||3||4||15||TTP||CANDIDATES|
|South Wazeeristaan Agency||3||2||22||TTP|
|Lucky Marwat||1||0||0||TTP||AJIP, JI,|
|Charsadda||10||3||41||Local taliban, TTP|
|Baluchistan||Jhal Magsi||2||3||4||BLF , Nationalist Insurgents|
|Sindh||Sanghar||1||0||4||Unknown militants||MQM, ANP,|
|Shikarpur||2||0||10||TTP, Unknown Militants||PPP, ST,|
|Karachi||25||57||276||Lej, TTP||ASWJ, MDM,|
|Hyderabad||2||3||1||TTP||TTP, JI, MWM, NPP|
|Punjab||Mianwali||2||0||3||Unknown militants||PPP, PML-N,|
|Lahore||1||0||1||Unknown militants||Unknown candidates|
Attacks on political workers, leaders and polling stations on May 11
|district||No. of attacks||killed||Injured||responsible groups||targets|
|Brakhan||1||0||0||BLF||A polling Station|
|chardassada||1||0||0||TTP||An election Office of ANP|
|kalat||1||2||4||BLA||A polling Station|
|Karachi||5||12||38||TTP||2 polling stations,Eletion Office of ANP and Ji,MWM’s candidate for 253|
|Mardan||1||0||15||TTP||A polling Station|
|Mastang||2||2||0||BLF||2 polling stations.|
|Mianwali||1||0||0||unknown militants||convoy of PTI leader|
|Naseerabad||1||0||0||BRA||A bus escorting voters back homes from polling stations|
|Noshki||1||0||0||BLF||A polling Station|
|Peshawar||2||0||10||TTP||2 women’s polling stations|
|Quetta||2||0||10||BLA||A polling Station|