It’s been 45 years since a presidential candidate in the United States has been murdered by an assassin in cold blood, and not since 1864 has the United States held a presidential election in the middle of a war taking place on U.S. soil.
But imagine a national campaign that takes place under constant threat of radical terrorist attack.
That is exactly what’s happening in Pakistan, where a tense campaign has taken place not through the recognizable open-air rallies that mark campaigns throughout the world, but in large part behind closed doors — or at least behind thick glass.
Campaign violence began late in 2012 — members of the pro-U.S., pro-NATO, anti-Taliban Awami National Party (ANP, عوامی نيشنل پارٹی in Urdu, ملي عوامي ګوند in Pashto), the country’s largest Pashtun ethnicity party have long been accustomed to being targets of violence. But as election day has neared, mainstream parties have been increasingly targeted as well.
The most vulnerable parties have been the incumbent Pakistan People’s Party (PPP, پاکستان پیپلز پارٹی) of Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of the late prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who was killed in December 2007 by assassins, and its allies like the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM, متحدہ قومی موومنٹ), a Karachi-based party. But even their main rivals, the more conservative Pakistan Muslim League (N) (PML-N, اکستان مسلم لیگ ن) of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has also been targeted. The threat of violence is so strong that the PPP has barely held any rallies — it even called off its kickoff rally. Sharif (pictured above) has campaigned only with extremely cautious protections.
Given that a functioning democracy requires a certain respect for the rule of law and a baseline ability of voters to interact with party leaders and potential prime ministers, the current state in Pakistan is hardly any kind of way to wage a political campaign, and the gruesome toll of violence has led to an eerily subdued campaign season.
The main culprit is the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP, تحریک طالبان پاکستان), better known simply as the ‘Pakistan Taliban.’
So what exactly is the TTP and why is it trying to destabilize Pakistan’s election this year? Continue reading How does Pakistan hold a normal election campaign in the middle of widespread terrorism?