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Editorial

July 14, 2018

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Killing fields

Less than two weeks before the general elections, militant organisations have stepped up their campaign of terror against politicians of all parties. On Friday, a horrific suicide attack at a campaign corner meeting in Mastung killed more than 100 people, including Balochistan Awami Party member Nawabzada Siraj Raisani – the younger brother of former chief minister Nawab Aslam Raisani. As the death toll continued to go up, people watched in horror at the violence that has suddenly become a daily nightmare. Earlier in the day, former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister Akram Khan Durrani’s convoy was targeted in a blast that killed four people while an election office of the Balochistan Awami Party was targeted on Thursday night. ANP leader Haroon Bilour was killed in a suicide attack on July 10 which also took the lives of 19 others while there have also been attacks on the MMA and PTI. Even though we have repeatedly been told that the back of militancy has been broken, that so many attacks could be carried out in such a short time shows that is far from the case. The way politicians are being targeted is reminiscent not just of the elections of 2008 and 2013, when some parties were seen to have been effectively barred from campaigning by the constant threat of attack, but also of the last decade in general, when there was constant fear that militants could strike anywhere and at any time.

The state needs to explain why it has not done enough to ensure the integrity of the elections by providing those under threat sufficient security. When certain parties are being targeted by militancy, their campaigns are naturally hamstrung putting them at a disadvantage to other parties. Attacks against political parties have also resurfaced after the official security of politicians was withdrawn. An election essentially requires candidates to interact closely with voters. Without this process, polling becomes meaningless. Crucially, these events place a dark cloud over the electoral process. This harms the democratic process and it harms all of us. It is the duty of the state to ensure the security of all citizens, and the fact is that those seeking to represent us are facing greater peril than most. Analysts have also been wondering why a central plank of the National Action Plan – that we would no longer tolerate militancy in any form – has been ignored. Groups that advocate violence and are explicitly sectarian have found it impossible to field candidates in these elections. All this has led to observations that perhaps declarations of victory in the fight against militancy were premature. In fact, we now face many threats as militants wage – as it were – war on our democracy.

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