‘Secular’ parties and independent candidates under fire.
Two bomb attacks in Kohat and Peshawar on Sunday and three in Karachi on Saturday have killed at least 11 people and injured 84 in ongoing elections-related violence.
Five people died and 22 were wounded on Sunday from a blast at the office of an independent candidate, Noor Akbar Khan, in the garrison city of Kohat. Khan is running for Pakistan’s National Assembly from the Orakzai tribal agency. He is canvassing for votes among the residents forced to flee Orakzai for Kohat by Army operations against militants.
“The IED was planted outside the election office,” said Dilawar Khan Bangash, the city police chief. “At least five people have been killed and 22 injured.” The blast also damaged nearby shops and vehicles and also hit an office of the Awami National Party. “[Khan’s] election office was open at the time, and [his] supporters were sitting inside,” said police official Tanveer Khan. “The death toll may rise, the condition of some of the injured is critical.”
Sunday’s other blast also targeted an independent candidate, Nasir Khan Afridi, in Peshawar. It killed three and wounded at least 13 others. Afridi is contesting from Khyber agency, and, like Khan, has been campaigning among voters displaced by a military offensive.
On Saturday three blasts in Karachi killed at least three people and wounded 49. Two of the bombs hit the offices of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement party and the Pakistan Peoples Party. The ANP, MQM, and PPP were coalition partners in the outgoing national government and have been specifically threatened by the Pakistani Taliban who view these parties as secular and anti-Islamist. As a result of the threats, there have been few large-scale political rallies leading to a lackluster campaign for the May 11 elections.
Amnesty International has also called on Pakistan to investigate the recent wave of attacks and to ensure adequate protection for election candidates. Violence has marred the campaign for the elections, with more than 50 people dead in blasts and suicide attacks since April 11, including more than 20 in the past three days, according to an AFP tally.