The firing in Pishin and the bomb in North Waziristan, on Sunday, showed differing aspects of the same campaign: the attempt by terrorists to sabotage the election. Whereas the shooting in Pishin’s Karbala Bazar took three lives (two ANP workers in the firing, and the attacker when he was caught by the crowd that chased him), and was aimed at those who are taking part in the elections, the roadside bombing near the Khwaja Khwar checkpost, which took the lives of four troops in a military convoy, as it left Mir Ali bound for Bannu, was aimed that the institution committed to protecting these elections. As the militants have been fighting the military for some time now, this attack may be seen as part of that, but since the two have ended up on opposing sides on the question of elections, all terrorist attacks on security personnel have to be seen in this context.

The attack in Pishin must be seen in the context of the entire Balochistan situation. There were also grenades thrown at the houses of the National Party chief. On the one hand there are the religious forces which oppose elections, on the other nationalist forces calling for separation. This is also the province with the worst record of governance, and where the provincial caretaker government faces perhaps the biggest challenge in holding polls. The recent visits there by the Chief Election Commissioner and the COAS are both indications of the severity of the challenge. The caretaker government must make sure that the security of the polling process, and of campaign activity before it, are guaranteed. In this, it must be backed by all authorities, including the federal government, for without this backing, it does not seem it will be very successful. There are forces which want to use this unrest to cancel, or at least delay elections.

It must be kept in mind that the show of force implied by troop presence will not be useful until the actual polling. What is needed to stop such outrages as those witnessed in Pishin and Waziristan, is reliable intelligence, so that there can be prevention, for it is in prevention that elections can be held successfully. It does not seem that the caretakers have the will to tackle militancy, presumably because they feel that this is something that should be done by an elected government. However, they must ensure success in their primary task, which is to ensure free and fair elections. The Army too must stick to its resolve of upholding these elections, and providing the security they need to successfully represent the will of the people.