Taliban threats are to sabotage elections: Pak Minister

Last Updated: Monday, April 29, 2013 - 18:53

Islamabad: The threats from the Taliban and other militant groups to political parties are part of a "very organised campaign" to sabotage Pakistan`s landmark general election, Information Minister Arif Nizami said on Monday.

"This is an existential threat and it`s not new. There is a very organised campaign to sabotage the election," Nizami said during an interaction with members of the foreign media.

There is a "clear and present danger" from militants, who want to "eliminate candidates" and frighten voters, he said.

Over the past few days, the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and other militant groups have targeted campaign offices and election meeting in different parts of Pakistan.

Most of the attacks have occurred in the country`s largest city of Karachi and Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provinces.

Eight persons were killed in a suicide attack in Peshawar this morning while 12 people died and more than 40 were injured in four bomb attacks yesterday, heightening concerns about security for the May 11 general election.

Nizami said the caretaker government was working closely with security and intelligence agencies to provide security to candidates and to foil the plans of militants.

He referred to Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan`s warning that militants would target certain secular parties and said the administration had ensured that candidates were "adequately protected".

"Despite efforts to the contrary, the election will be held on time," he said. However, he acknowledged that some parties had complained that they were not being provided a level playing field because of the militant threats, and that campaigning was only being done in Punjab province.

Nizami did not rule out the possibility that the threats from the militant could affect the turnout on election day.

"The turnout in Pakistani polls has never been high and it is candidate-driven. No candidate has withdrawn (because of threats). Anything above 40 per cent would be a decent turnout," he said.

However, he admitted that if one were to go by the level of threats, the violence could escalate before the polls.

"We have information and we are trying to cope with the situation," he said.
Nizami described the upcoming election as "unique", saying the polls in insurgency-hit Balochistan province could be a "game changer".

He said: "This is a unique election in Pakistan no government in the past completed its term".

In Balochistan, nationalist parties had decided to participate in the polls despite complaining about the lack of a level playing field.
"It is a kind of game changer, as the nationalists who boycotted pas elections are going to participate in the polls after a decade or so," he said.
The security agencies are supportive of this process as they want a "more representative assembly" in Balochistan, Nizami said.


First Published: Monday, April 29, 2013 - 18:53

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