Pakistani daily worried over terror threat to polls

Islamabad, April 12 (IANS) Militants are deciding in the country’s restive Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) about who can and who cannot contest the general elections, said a leading Pakistani daily which demanded that the state’s writ be re-established in the tribal areas.

An editorial in the Dawn Friday said that fear rules in FATA, “with the militants deciding who can and cannot contest the general elections”.

“Candidates out of favour with the extremists face threats and are not allowed to campaign. This has resulted in some hopefuls camouflaging their party affiliations and contesting as independents,” it said.

Last month, a public meeting in Bannu was bombed, while Thursday the Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for the killing of an MQM candidate in Hyderabad.

“Such intimidation amounts to queering the pitch and making a complete mockery of the democratic process,” said the daily.

The editorial pointed out that while areas like Mohmand and Bajaur fare relatively better, the state’s writ is practically non-existent in places like North Waziristan, where only those candidates approved by militants stand a chance of winning.

“The TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan) – which does not believe in democracy – cannot be allowed to screen candidates and deprive the public of their right to elect representatives of their choice. It is the responsibility of the security forces to provide protection to all candidates so that they can campaign freely.

“Equally important, those parties that have been allowed by the militants to campaign must protest against the exclusion and intimidation of other contenders. Otherwise, one-sided races and victories going to militant-backed candidates will render the results of many seats open to question. Such a situation will detract from the fairness of the electoral exercise, which is already threatened,” it added.

It wanted the state’s writ in the tribal areas, where security forces are already present in large numbers, to be re-established.

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