Pakistan has election fever.
A crumbling economy, due to the energy crisis and the currently ostracized government, is turning up the heat as the election next month draws near. The most pressing issue in the election remains the violent actions of the Pakistani Taliban, who have been rebelling against the Pakistani government for the last five years.
“It has come up a lot with the recent Boston bombings,” said part-time Mathematics Lecturer Dani Moran. “A lot of comparisons have been drawn that there are a lot of bombings that have been as bad or worse.”
The violence includes attacks on one of the anti-Taliban parties running in the campaign, the Awami National Party. At one of the party’s small election meetings, a Taliban suicide bombing killed 17. The Taliban have also attempted three lethal attacks on ANP candidate Arbab Ayub Jan.
“We are trying our best that we will bring peace one day,” said Jan to the BBC. “We are not going back, and we are determined and we will fight against terrorism.”
However, the Taliban have severely hindered their campaign by issuing threats. The campaigns have been quiet, drawing out only loyal party voters, while the general public is too frightened to attend.
“This time, we are totally handicapped and, in my opinion, this is the biggest setback we can face going into an election campaign,” said ANP candidate Haroon Bilour to the BBC. Bilour’s father, a senior ANP leader, was killed by a Taliban suicide bomber in December.
Along with the violence, many civilians have protested on issues like the economy and religious policies of the state. The Taliban are interested in enforcing Islamic law in Pakistan.
“Pakistan was originally intended to be a place for Muslims like myself, and it should be a better place than it is,” said Early College junior Rabab Husain. “Even though the Taliban and all the people in power in Pakistan think what they are doing is Islamic, they have no right to call themselves an Islamic government or an Islamic society. Islam is their excuse, not their religion. They are corrupt.”
Despite the multiple bombings the Taliban have inflicted upon the public, some people still do not view the Taliban as an issue.
“To some extent, I have a hard time mustering the same kind of ire toward the Taliban as other people because I am a Muslim and because there has been a history of other countries getting involved in Pakistan,” said Ahmad Tejan-Sie, a student who takes classes at Guilford. “I feel that kind of environment where you constantly have other countries involving in this country’s business often stokes ire and that kind of violence that occurs.”
As the May 11 election day draws near, Pakistan’s highly volatile political climate winds closer to what might be the end of a long period of unrest and violence.