by Zia Ur Rehman

May 10, 2013

KARACHI – Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT), in their persistent campaign of violence and extremism against Pakistan’s May 11 general election, are following an un-Islamic path of sin, according to religious leaders.

In an effort to persuade people not to give in to terrorist threats, the Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC)’s recent fatwa declared voting a religious obligation.

Passersby April 27 stand outside a bombed Awami National Party campaign office in Karachi. The banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and Hizb ut-Tahrir have joined hands against the democratic process in Pakistan. [REUTERS/Athar Hussain
“Every voter must come out on the polling day to cast his or her vote,” council head Allama Tahir Ashrafi told Central Asia Online, adding that more than 300 clerics belonging to different schools of thought declared the non-casting of votes a sin.

The TTP and HT’s “conspiracy to disrupt the polls” is an attack against the national interest, he said, adding that they are “misusing the name of Islam” and should be “stopped immediately.”

Militant scare tactics on the rise

After a spate of bombings that have killed more than 100 people in the last month, TTP-linked militants are now distributing anti-election propaganda.

The pamphlets falsely claim that the elections are “un-Islamic” and they threaten attacks on certain political parties, Younas Khan, an ANP leader running for the National Assembly NA-256 seat, told Central Asia Online.

The pamphlets, distributed in some Karachi neighbourhoods, follow an April 8 video message sent to media outlets featuring TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud speaking out against the democratic process and calling for a boycott of the elections. Media reported that militants distributed similar pamphlets in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). One TTP leaflet aims to threaten teachers in Peshawar who vote, Dawn reported.

Like the TTP, HT is attempting to lead voters astray with a similar propaganda campaign. HT members are distributing pamphlets and holding small meetings, primarily at mosques after prayers in the larger cities across Pakistan.

Though the HT has so far relied on non-violent means, it’s still conducting an anti-election campaign that poses a security threat, Islamabad-based political analyst Nadeem Farooqi told Central Asia Online.

Banned in Pakistan since 2003, HT’s classification as an extremist/terrorist group has “remained vague.” That vagueness is “a major barrier in assessing the real threat that the group poses,” said Farooqi, who monitors HT activity.

After drawing mainstream media attention with the 2012 convictions of Brig. Ali Khan and four other army officers for links to HT, law enforcement began cracking down on the group.

Authorities have arrested a number of its activists for distributing extremist literature and attempting to dissuade voters from participating in the polls, Pakistan Today reported April 14.

Pakistan committed to election

Political parties and civil society organisations have joined the ulema council in condemning the militant campaign against the election process.

The fate of the country could be changed through votes, Maulana Samiul Haq, the head of Daar ul Uloom Haqqania in KP, told Central Asia Online.

“It is an opportunity to choose good and competent people to enter the parliament,” Karachi resident Ismail Qureshi said. “I and my family will vote without any fear.”

In preparation, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) May 7 decided to further increase security, Dawn reported, posting10 security guards instead of nine at the “most sensitive” polling stations, and nine instead of eight will be deployed to “sensitive” voting sites.

“The people will show their unity on voting day against terrorism and extremism by supporting liberal political parties,” Younas said, adding that the public would reject those so-called political parties that do not condemn the brutalities of the Taliban.

“The Pakistani people believe in democracy,” Abdul Waheed, a civil society activist and head of the Bright Education Society, told Central Asia Online. “The militants’ propaganda campaigns and attacks cannot keep them away from voting on May 11.”