Election is the defining feature of democracy, and the representative democracy that we have tried our best to nurture is currently going through that crucial phase. Unfortunately in the last one week four terrorist attacks have been made against candidates contesting the election. These incidents must serve as an SOS call to save the general election and ensure smooth running of democracy.
Meddling in the elections of states that are not very friendly to you is not a new phenomenon. The news of the alleged digital hacking by Russian agents to influence US elections is still making rounds.
Here in our part of the world the proxy wars have been going on for decades. There is concrete evidence that insurgency in Balochistan is supported by India. The Indian intelligence agency RAW and the Afghan agency NDS too have not been sitting idle while Pakistan sailed towards the goal of holding election.
If the above contention is accepted that foreign elements are supporting insurgency, sectarian strife and terrorism but even then the issue is who is providing human resource to such elements. We need to look to ourselves and find out the facilitators.
There have been a lot of failures on our part. We failed to equip National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) to counter security threats, especially to leaders of political parties who are contesting elections. There was not enough funding at the federal level while the provincial governments response was also lukewarm to the 21 point National Action Plan. The National Action Plan could not be fully implemented.
Deployment of Rangers in Punjab to eliminate the sleeper cells spread even in cities could not produce the desired results. Not executing harsh sentences against terrorists has encouraged those involved in this heinous business to commit more crimes against those who think are their enemies. The targets are mostly soft ones – children, progressive political and social workers and leaders and now even leaders of religious parties. In the last seven days four attacks were made to sabotage the election. 154 people have died while more than 200 have been injured.
On July 7, the convoy of Muttahida-e-Amal candidate Shiren Malik was attacked leaving six injured.
ANP leader Haroon Bilour was among the 22 martyred in suicide attack in Peshawar on July 10.
On July 13 JUI leader Akram Khan Durrani’s convoy was attacked in which four people were martyred. Akram was injured. Later in the same day candidate Nawabzada Siraj Raisani’s election rally was attacked in Mastung. 128 including the candidate were martyred. The COAS General Qamar Bajwa on the same day had announced death penalty to 12 hard core terrorists.
The gravity of situation can be gauged from some of the facts mentioned above. The terrorists whether acting on their own religious agenda or at the instigation of some other state actor need to be crushed once and for all. The attacks in the last seven days show the failure of intelligence agencies to warn us ahead of the incident. The police at provincial and local level also needs to be more vigilant.
The Supreme Court order to withdraw police guards from important political and other personalities also needs to be reviewed. At least all the candidates of major parties must be given security cover considering the grave threat that they face. The political rallies should be allowed after clearance of police and other security agencies. There is need for more coordination and intelligence between the security agencies. For example in Punjab there are a number of units created within the main police force working almost independently. The general election must be held on time and in peace and it is not only the security institutions that can make it happen but also the people who too must remain vigilant about their surroundings. The administration, police and security officials must work on new strategies to counter the terror threat. The public threat in security institutions must not get eroded.
Lastly the political parties who in the past and even now continue to use their links with religious outfits for political benefits must stop this practice. These religious outfits may have links with the extremist forces bent upon imposing their own agenda in Pakistan. The law enforcers will have to demonstrate greater courage to see these elements are taken to task. It is time to bell the cat and end the bogie of extremist elements. Otherwise the people would continue to suffer at the hands of these criminal elements working in the garb of religious outfits.
Pakistan faces a bright future in view of the new developments taking place like the CPEC. Religious extremists, however, cannot go hand in hand with development and progress. If we start moving in the right direction and stop usage of our human resources for nefarious designs of our enemies we bring stability and prosperity in country.
n The writer is a member of staff.