Observers worry about security in Karachi on eve of election

By ZAFAR AHMED KHAN, written for  |  May 10, 2013 at 10:34 PM
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KARACHI, Pakistan, May 10 (UPI Next) -- Politicians and analysts are voicing concern about the security situation in Karachi, one of Pakistan's major economic hubs, as political parties gear up for Saturday's general elections.

Campaign events and party offices were the targets of at least nine bomb blasts across Karachi between April 23 and May 3, police say. The outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan militant group is blamed for the attacks, in which more than 31 political activists have been killed and 161 injured.

Violence has long been a feature of elections in Karachi but observers are worried by the city's current situation. Tehreek-e-Taliban is "taking advantage of ethnic, political and gang-war violence," Zia Ur Rehman, a security analyst based in Karachi, told UPI Next.

The Taliban "has organized its network in Karachi and is following the strategy of its central leadership based in Waziristan. Karachi militants have also intensified their attacks on liberal political parties," he said.

Pakistan's three major secular parties have been the principal targets of attack.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement was targeted in five attacks, involving seven bomb blasts. The Awami National Party and Pakistan Peoples Party were each attacked once, during rallies.

Awami National Party General Secretary Bashir Jan, who is running for a provincial assembly seat in a Sindh province constituency, told UPI Next that the party has received Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan threats by email, letter and text messages, and in phone calls from Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa province in the northwest and from within Karachi itself.

"A number of ANP activists even moved from Karachi to Islamabad as they received threats from the Taliban," he said.

An April 26 bomb blast at one of the party's election campaign meetings in Karachi killed 11 people and injured more than 50.

One of the party's candidates, Sadiq Zaman Khattak, was killed with his 6-year-old son, Amal Zaman, May 3 while emerging from a mosque. Pakistan's Election Commission has postponed elections in his district.

Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan, said May 3 that the militant organization was behind the attack on Sadiq Zaman Khattak and other secular parties.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement spokesman Ameen-ul-Haq told UPI Next that 15 people have been killed in blasts at party election offices in Karachi. The party is liberal, progressive and secular, and ul-Haq blames the Taliban for these attacks.

A party provincial assembly candidate in Sindh Province was killed April 11 ul-Haq said.

Secular parties are the target of Taliban threats aimed at destabilizing Pakistan, especially within Karachi, ul-Haq added.

Elections will be held on Saturday at any cost, Akthar Baloch, Karachi representative of the Pakistan Human Rights Commission, told UPI Next. Baloch predicted that the secular ANP, MQM and PPP will retain their seats in Karachi and surrounding Sindh province.

Turnout may be low, though, he said.

"Voters may feel safer if they stay at home," he said.

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