All Parties Must Denounce Terrorist Groups and Their Acts
ISLAMABAD, May 2, 2013: Decisive action is required by the state against militant groups deliberately attempting to sabotage the election process through acts of terrorism and intimidation of candidates and their supporters, polling officials and voters across Pakistan, says Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN), calling for formal statements from all parties and candidates denouncing anti-election violence against any election contestants.
Keeping in view the specific threats on Election Day, FAFEN recommends that detailed security plans be prepared for constituencies that are security sensitive and facing specific threats by terrorists. Declaring polling stations sensitive and deploying a larger number of security officials may not be an adequate approach keeping in view the kind of capability and outreach of the terrorist groups involved. Incidents of terrorism especially on the morning of the Election Day are likely to cause low voter turnout and lost confidence in the election process and results, thereby warranting appropriate strategy for preemption.
The expanding and increasingly deadly wave of terrorism targeting some political parties and their supporters is compromising the fairness of the election process. Despite clear directives and desires of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to the caretaker government, there has been no letup in the acts of terrorism against certain political parties, government and election functionaries and security forces.
The state has a legal obligation to enlist all security forces and agencies to assist the ECP in ensuring a peaceful election process, which includes the current campaign period in advance of polling day on May 11, 2013. ECP has no mandate or resources to address terrorist acts.
Failure of the state and its security forces to take decisive action against terrorist groups could be interpreted as capitulation or facilitation of anti-election efforts, with partisan intentions. Militant groups so far have acted seemingly with impunity, with state agencies taking little or no action against them as required by anti-terrorism laws and Representation of the Peoples Act (1976).
In addition to the deplorable loss of innocent lives, the violence is jeopardizing the ability of some political parties to campaign and compromising the right of voters to make informed democratic choices in Pakistan’s historic first elections to transition between two civilian governments.
Political parties also should make strong public statements condemning all groups and outfits involved in terrorism. No party or candidate should benefit from – or allow itself to appear to benefit from – terrorist threats against election opponents. FAFEN called on all election contestants to send a collective message that all Pakistanis stand together against terrorism and anti-election violence.
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