Pakistanis go to the polls on Saturday to elect a new government amidst hopes that first-time voters, which comprise one third of the total voting block, will usher in a new breed of politicians.
This has given rise to expectations of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party notching up significant seats in parliament. But the elections are being held under a cloud of fear as terrorism has claimed over 200 lives so far in the run up to the polls.
On Friday, five people died as a motorcycle bomb exploded in the main bazaar of Miramshah, the main town of North Waziristan district, as the death toll from pre-election violence rose amidst fears of more attacks on election day following threats issued by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
Taliban commanders have given a mandate to their supporters to carry out widespread attacks in the country on May 11 by the chief commander of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) through a letter, local media reported.
Issued on May 1, 2013 and addressed to TTP spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan, TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud wrote “I will keep control of the attacks in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, while you should cover Sindh and Punjab.”
Details of the letter were leaked to the media by the TTP, possibly to spread fear and stop people from voting.
Mehsud said that the Taliban commanders would be busy working against the agents of an “infidel system”, his reference to democracy which the TTP strongly opposes.
In response to these threats, the army announced that not only would 70,000 troops be deployed nation wide, but on the request of the Chief Election Commissioner, troops would also be deployed in the polling stations of sensitive areas. The Chief Election Commissioner had earlier told the army chief that the arrangements in place were inadequate.
Election observers say that the biggest challenge would be the turnout as many people would prefer to stay indoors on the day given fears of terror attacks at polling stations.