Islamabad/Karachi/Quetta - The election commission Thursday vowed not to delay the elections even by a ‘single day’ as polls related attacks killed at least six more people while Taliban distributed pamphlets in some cities warning citizens against participating in the elections.
A bike bomb explosion at an MQM election office in Karachi’s Nusrat Bhutto Colony at around 10pm on Thursday killed at least five people and injured 15 others. Earlier, in the day, two bikers hurled a grenade on an election office of a Pakistan Peoples Party candidate in Baluchistan’s in Nushki district, killing one person and injuring another.
The Pakistan-Tehrik-Taliban (TTP), which claimed the Karachi attack, has announced to target outgoing coalition government partners PPP, Mutthida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Awami National Party (ANP), all three thought to be secular parties. The outlawed militant organisation also distributed pamphlets in Buner, Peshawar and different areas of Karachi warning citizens not to participate in upcoming elections.
Those killed in the blast near the MQM North Karachi Unit-175 in Nazim Abad area included three cousins Bilal Kareem, Aqeel Islam and Adil Siddique, while the two others were Ayub and Imran Umar. At least five vehicles and six houses, and more than a dozen shops were damaged. Experts said that some two to three kilogram explosive was used in the motorcycle bomb.
A previous bomb blast outside an MQM election office near Peoples Chowrangi had killed at least four people and wounded 25 others on Tuesday, following the party observed day of mourning shutting the port city. The party again announced a day of mourning across Sindh today (Friday) against the blast and appealed transporters and traders to support it. Private Schools Association also announced a holiday, following the MQM’s appeal.
MQM chief Altaf Hussain strongly condemned this act of terrorism and expressed sympathies to the victim families. MQM leader Wasy Jalil said they were keeping their election offices closed but party workers had gathered at the Unit Office to run the election campaign. He said the party cannot be forced out of the election by such kind of coward terrorist attacks. Earlier, the MQM had urged the election commission to postpone polls for two to three months over security reasons.
But, chairing a meeting on election security, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim reiterated that the May 11 elections won’t get delayed even by a day. In his message to media, he urged the journalists “not to allow miscreants create an atmosphere of fear and panic”. “Media is part of our team. It’s your responsibility to expose foul play wherever you see. But it’s also your role not to allow the anti-state elements create chaos and panic. I leave it up to you how you go about it.”
“We’re a resilient nation and resilient nations brave odd times... Together we will accomplish this noble mission after 16 days,” Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Secretary Ishtiak Ahmed Khan told journalists after the meeting while referring to the ongoing spate of violence.
Interestingly, the electoral body also directed the Ministry of Water and Power to stop load shedding until May 12, and the ministry has assured that “there would be no load shedding” in the coming days. “We told them, we want no power outages in the coming weeks particularly on the 10th, 11th and 12th of May. They have assured us that there would be no load shedding in the in the days to come,” Ishtiak said.
The Thursday’s meeting at the ECP office reviewed general law and order situation and discussed security measures for 119 districts of the country, seven tribal agencies and six frontier regions. Participated by ECP and bosses of federal and provincial security institutions, the meeting gave a nod to using the military as a quick response force and setting up polling stations and going ahead with other polling activities all over the country, including the security challenging north-western tribal region.
The ECP secretary said that polling stations would be set up for the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the IDPs relief camps. “Elections would be held in every district and agency of Pakistan including Fata and Balochistan,” he reiterated.
Ishtiak Khan said that prime responsibility for the security provision rested with the provincial governments that had shared their security plans with the ECP. On Balochistan security situation also, he emphasised that it was the duty of the provincial government to use state institutions against the miscreants. After assurances from the military, the ECP has reportedly decided to also establish polling stations in the volatile North Waziristan, which has 160,666 registered voters – 148,692 male and 11,704 female.