Meanwhile the bloodshed rises in run-up to Pakistan's polling day on Saturday
The election approaches!
In the run-up we have seen bloodshed and chaos. Amidst the rising tensions, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is reported to be confident of a 'comeback', and has promised that if elected, he will put a stop to Pakistan's inovlement in the 'war on terror' led by the US. Meanwhile the violence has intensified, as the Taliban and al Qaeda pick-off liberal party leaders and the son of former Prime Misister Yousuf Raza Gilani is abducted by gunmen in Multan city during an election rally.
The confident and wealthy Nawaz Sharif served as Prime Minister for two non-consecutive terms, 1990 – 1993 and 1997 – 1999, after which he was exiled. He now heads the major opposition party Pakistan Muslim League-N. BBC's correspondent Orla Guerin reports from Islamabad that he is now a "front runner" for the election and is "confident of a comeback". Guerin asked if he would take Pakistan out of the war on terror, and his reply was "Yes we have to, if we want to have peace in this country and peace elsewhere in the world."
When asked if he was going to stop military operations against the Taliban and al Qaeda, he answered "it's a matter of detail." This rather vague response has left many Westerners worrying about a Sahrif rule, and the possible disruption of international security that may follow, as he promises to turn Pakistan into "an asian tiger."
The other major opponent in this election is former cricket star Imran Kahn, who was injured last night in a head-long stage fall during a rally. Although weak and hospitalised, Kahn managed to appeal to the voters from his bed, making the public statement "On election day, remember what the Koran says, God helps those who help themeselves. Go out and vote for change."
Meanwhile the activity of the Taliban has been bitter and fierce. There have been multiple bombings in the run-up to the election, the three main secular parties having been particularly targeted, leading to assasinations of party leaders by the handful.
Hina Rabbani Khar, Former Foreign Minister told the BBC with regards to the state of the elections that "this is dangerous for the political parties who find themselves to be literally worrrying about their lives as they make an election stop, but it is also dangerous for Pakistan." When asked whether the Taliban are stealing this election she replied "they are certainly determining the results of the elections in a way that should not be allowed".
Such terrorism by the Taliban has meant that having a proper and fair election is quite impossible.
This is still more evident as the son of Pakistan's former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is kidnapped by a band of gunmen at an election rally in the city of Multan. Both his secretary and guard were shot dead in the seige. Musa Gilani, the brother of the kidnapped Ali Haider, who is actually a candidate for the Pakistan Peoples' Party, made the statement: "If we don't get my brother Haider Gilani by this evening, I will not let the election happen in my area".
The Taliban themselves have plans of further destruction. According to sources, the head of the Pakistani Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud, wrote to his spokesman, revealing projects of attack by suicide blasts in all of Pakistan's provinces come polling day this Saturday. "We don't accept the system of infidels which is called democracy" he wrote in the letter.
In Pakistan's most violent election thus far, making it through to the end would see the first ever consecutive completion of the democratic process in its history; that is, of one government completing its term and handing over to another. Since US and Nato forces are planning to leave Afghanistan, the next Pakistani leader would be up against the monumental challenge of stabilising the country. The question begs, if the successful leader is one who is willing to deal with the Taliban.