In a few weeks Pakistan will hold historic National Assembly elections on May 11. These elections will result in the first civilian democratic transition in Pakistan’s history. Tragically, there are extremist elements in Pakistan marring this campaign season with violence.
In recent days, election workers and campaigners have been the target of deadly attacks. Many of these appear to have been perpetrated by the Pakistani Taliban, which has publicly threatened to target secular-leaning political parties, and which has claimed responsibility for several of the incidents.
On April 23, at least six people were killed and dozens injured in two incidents, one in which a bomb blew up near an election office of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, the MQM, in the city of Karachi; and one in which a suicide bomber struck a checkpoint in the town of Quetta. At least nine people were killed and dozens injured in the city of Peshawar on April 16 in a suspected suicide bomb attack during a political rally called by the Awami National Party, the ANP.
“It's important that violence such as this not prevent the Pakistani people from achieving their aspirations."
On April 15, gunmen killed two election campaigners and wounded three others after they ambushed a car carrying workers for independent candidate Abdul Rahim Burki in the Dera Ismail Khan district. On April 14, Fakhrul Islam, a candidate for the MQM, was shot by two assailants on a motorcycle as he left the shop he owned with his father in the city of Hyderabad.
Wasay Jalil, a spokesman for the MQM, said, “Terrorists are threatening to sabotage elections ...but these terror acts will not deter us from taking part in elections and our stance against extremism and terrorism.”
At a U.S. State Department press briefing, Acting Deputy Spokesperson Patrick Ventrell condemned the violence targeting political candidates and leaders in Pakistan.
“It's important that violence such as this not prevent the Pakistani people from achieving their aspirations for a peaceful, prosperous and democratic nation,” said Mr. Ventrell. “And we continue to look forward to timely, free and fair elections with a peaceful transition of power. And as we note, this historic election marks the first civilian government to complete its term in Pakistan's history, thus leading into elections to a new civilian government.”