Lahore - Just a couple of weeks before Pakistanis go for electing their representatives for the next five years, terrorism has struck hard – bringing all election bustle to a grinding halt and turning the atmosphere of festivity into a national mourning.
The target of all the three major terror attacks this week were poll events – in Balochistan’s Mastung and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Bannu and Peshawar.
The message those monsters are sending out is clear: We are still a force to reckon with and we won’t let you decide all by your own.
The security institutions are resolved to not let them derail the elections and all the political actors are also resolute to make this key national exercise a success. But terrorists have definitely dented the election activity at this prime time, if not destroyed it altogether.
On Tuesday, the Awami National Party leader Haroon Bilour and 21 other were martyred and dozens other injured when a TTP bomber struck a corner meeting.
On Friday, a suicide attacker of the so-called Islamic State blew off his vest at an election rally, claiming well over 130 lives and injuring over 250. The prime target of the attack was a candidate, Nawabzada Siraj Raisani, who was among the martyrs.
The same day terror struck again in KP – this time hitting a Jamiat Ulma-e-Islam convoy led by former KP chief minister Akram Khan Durrani in Bannu, killing four and injuring 35 others.
These back-to-back attacks sent ripple across all those who were tightening their belts to push their election campaign in the final phase.
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was forced to cancel two major election rallies in KP. The campaign of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz also slowed down and no major event of the party was seen anywhere on the electioneering front.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf was probably the only exception among the major players as its chief Imran Khan held public meetings in Swabi, Mardan and Texila on Saturday.
Activists are calling on the military to provide greater security at campaign events as more violence is being predicted ahead of the already-tense July 25 election, which primarily pits the PML-N against PTI.
Besides the other mainstream parties like PPP, Jamat-e-Islami and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, dozens of smaller groups are also contesting polls across the country.
Day of mourning
The federal government has announced one-day official mourning throughout the country on July 15 (today) over the devastating attacks in Peshawar, Bannu and Mastung.
A notification was issued to this effect by the interior ministry which said the national flag will fly at half-mast on Sunday.
A separate announcement made by the Prime Minister Office said that the government has decided to observe one-day mourning on the directions of caretaker Prime Minister Nasirul Mulk.
“The purpose is to pay tributes to the martyrs of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and to show solidarity with the grieved families,” it said.
Cancellation of PPP rallies
PPP’s election campaign in KP suffered a major blow on Saturday when it was forced to scrap its planned rallies in Peshawar and Malakand.
Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was in Peshawar and he was to leave for Malakand in the morning to lead a rally from Sakhakot to Batkhela before addressing a public meeting at Zafar Park in the evening.
But, the district administration refused to grant PPP the permission for its Peshawar and Malakan events due to security reasons, and advised Bilawal to remain within the cantonment areas.
The party has good election history in Malakand and Bilawal is a candidate for the NA-9 seat of this district.
Nacta rules out threat to polls
In wake of the terrorist attacks targeting election-related activities, the National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) Saturday briefed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) over security threats to political leaders and election candidates.
Speaking to media persons after the briefing, Nacta National Coordinator Dr Salman Khan asserted there was no serious threat to the general elections and reiterated they would be held as per schedule. He said Nacta would make all-out efforts to ensure peaceful elections across the country.
A day earlier, the ECP summoned the Nacta national coordinator to appear before it to give a briefing over the security threats being faced by electoral candidates.
Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sardar Muhammad Raza Khan strongly condemned the terrorist attacks in Balochistan and KP. He issued directives to the caretaker governments to ensure security of candidates and a peaceful and favourable atmosphere for elections.