With election day just a little over three weeks away and the electioneering campaign picking up steam, albeit with trepidation about terrorists striking at political gatherings, there has been an upsurge of suicide bombings and other means they employ to target their quarry. Their effort this time is to target high profile candidates so as to spread panic among the parties and subvert the elections. The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) mainly responsible for carrying out such attacks has stated, in unambiguous terms, that it is opposed to elections, deeming democracy "un-Islamic".

On the heels of the TTP’s warning, an MQM candidate from Hyderabad and another of its former MPs from Karachi were killed. The ANP also lost one of its election candidates and another was seriously injured. And on Tuesday two incidents – one at Khuzdar near Quetta and the other in Peshawar – occurred, which caused the deaths of 13 and wounded another 80, quite a few of them seriously. In Peshawar, an ANP meeting was targeted and its leader Ghulam Ahmad Bilour received minor injuries. At Khuzdar, it was the PML-N head of Balochistan, Sanaullah Zehri, that they, probably, wanted to target, but while he, fortunately, escaped, his son, brother and nephew who were travelling in the motorcade and their guard fell victim to a remote control device planted on the roadside. It is noteworthy here that on his recent to the province, caretaker Prime Minister Justice (r) Mir Hazar Khan Khoso had, in a meeting with leaders of political parties, urged them to participate in the polling, holding out a firm assurance that foolproof security arrangements were being made. But the TTP’s operatives, who seem to have infiltrated into distant areas in the country, had a different mandate from their outfit. These pre-election murderous attacks are bound to have a deep psychological impact on politicians as well as the electorate. If the candidates would shy away from going about canvassing, the voters would not like to queue up at the polling stations to risk their lives. That would be truer for areas which are the frequent scenes of militancy-related disasters.

For the caretaker government, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and all those charged with providing security, it is a moment of reflection; for in case the menace is not checked and the terrorist mayhem continues to prevail, it would affect the credibility of the polls, if they can be held in this fear-ridden climate. With the voters staying at home, even though they want to cast their ballot, the elections would hardly be a true representation of their views. The whole purpose of the exercise will be lost. The challenge, no doubt the outcome of incoherent and indifferent policies of the previous governments, has to be faced squarely and overcome with single-minded commitment and devotion. The country can neither afford to delay the general elections, nor take the risk of affording an opportunity to the non-democratic forces to assert themselves that any delay would tempt them to avail.