By Mehroz Siraj
Defying the Taliban’s threats of terrorist attacks, Pakistanis from across the country would today vote for their next national and provincial governments.
This election season, the Pakistani Taliban and other miscreant elements repeatedly carried out terror attacks targeting election candidates of secular parties, such as the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP), the National Party and the United National Movement.
These political parties that were part of the previous coalition government had overseen military operations against the terrorists in the Swat Valley and the Waziristan tribal region in 2009.
Through media releases and interviews, the Pakistani Taliban warned the Pakistani people, particularly the women the women to abstain from voting on election day.
Pakistani militant commanders told the ABC Radio and The Age earlier this week that they considered the democratic exercise of voting, anti-Islamic.
They further said that they believed that those who took part in this exercise, candidates or voters, were allowed to be killed under their interpretations of Islam.
“We do not accept the system of infidels which is called democracy,” remarked Hakimullah Mehsud, the head of the Pakistani Taliban, in a statement leaked to The Age’s South-Asian bureau in Islamabad.
“The Taliban has dispatched several loyalists to carry out attacks on the elections across Pakistan,” said another senior Taliban commander, as quoted by The Age.
In another letter that Mehsud wrote to the spokesman of the Pakistani Taliban, Ehsanullah Ehsan, he asked him to manage the militants who were tasked with carrying terror attacks in the populous Sindh and Punjab provinces.
Terror operations in the troubled northern Pakistan and the western Balochistan province would be managed by Mehsud himself, the letter said.
These revelations came a day after Pakistan’s two major contesting parties, the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) and the Movement for Justice Party concluded their election campaigns in simultaneous rallies in the Punjab province.
The PML is headed by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whilst the latter is headed by cricketer turned politician, Imran Khan.
Since the start of this year, over 600 people have been killed across Pakistan in violent acts and as a result of terrorist activities.
The just concluded election campaign has been considered by many as being the bloodiest in Pakistan’s 66 year history, as over 100 people were killed in pre-poll violence in the different parts of the country.
Last week, Pakistan’s powerful army chief, General Ashfaq Pervez kiyani was given a detailed briefing by senior military commanders about the role of the army in maintaining security across the country on election day
According to The Age and relevant Pakistani media reports, about 600,000 Pakistani troops would be patrolling the country’s 73,000 polling stations and other sensitive areas in many cities on election day.
Democratic elections and the transfer of powers from one government to the other have always been time periods that have been marred with violence, terror and controversy in Pakistan.
During the last election campaign of 2007, on December 27, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto of the PPP was assassinated in a major terrorist attack at an election rally in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.
Whilst her killers are still roaming scot-free, her widower husband Asif Ali Zardari, now heads her party and is the current serving president of the country.