Pakistan election violence forces candidates behind high walls
Dozens killed in attack on political rally in Pakistan
Mon, May 6 2013
By Katharine Houreld
PESHAWAR, Pakistan | Mon May 6, 2013 7:24pm EDT
(Reuters) - Mian Hussain is fighting for his political life from a deserted party headquarters, where two telephones sit silently beside him and the footsteps of a tea boy echo down the corridor.
One of Pakistan's most high-profile anti-Taliban politicians, Hussain hasn't been to a single public event since campaigning for the May 11 election kicked off. A fiery orator who once electrified big rallies, he now makes short speeches by telephone to small huddles of ...view middle of the document...
However, they have not attacked right-wing religious parties that have joined the election race, or former cricketer Imran Khan's party, which advocates shooting down U.S. drones and withdrawing the Pakistani military from insurgency-infested Pashtun areas along the Afghan border.
A blast at a rally organized by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam religious party on Monday killed 15 people though it was not clear who was responsible.
Nor have the Taliban attacked the main opposition party led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, which has courted support from groups accused of supporting sectarian attacks across the country.
"It's pre-poll rigging," Hussain says bitterly. The Taliban killed his only son three years ago, just before his wedding. The next day, militants attacked Hussain's home, killing seven.
"They will either have to elect the terrorists or elect those who oppose the terrorists," he said, the studious face of his dead son staring up from campaign posters on a nearby table.
SECURITY OR THE ECONOMY?
But many voters do not see the contest simply as one that pits pro- and anti-Taliban parties against each other.
Insecurity worries them, but so does the sluggish economy, endemic corruption and power shortages that have cost millions of jobs over the five years of the last government. Many say it is that legacy, and not the Taliban threat, that makes them inclined to vote for a new guard in Islamabad.
The main opposition party is led by two-times prime minister Sharif. It is widely seen as the front-runner for Saturday's polls, portrays itself as business-friendly and has promised to fix the country's serious economic woes.
His party denies that it is soft on the Taliban or militancy but says a new approach is needed, including an overhaul of the country's anti-terrorism courts.
The PPP and its coalition partners are the first civilian government to complete a full five-year term in a country whose history has been punctuated by military takeovers. Despite power shortages, tax shortfalls and corruption, they blame the shortcomings of their administration squarely on the Taliban.
"Terrorism is the biggest problem, it took up so much of our resources," said Zahir Shah,...