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Terrorists, Hate-mongers on Ballot in Pakistan’s “Peaceful”, “Democratic” Election


In Pakistan’s Punjab province, a region populated mostly by poor farmers, the run-up to this weekend’s elections has taken on a decidedly sectarian tone.

Maulana Abdul Khaliq Rehmani is the leader of a political group that is fielding 130 candidates, can count on as many as 12,000 votes—not enough to win a seat, reports Declan Walsh for the NYT, “but sufficient to swing the vote in the event of a tight race.” Rehmani and his group, formerly known as Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, the umbrella group of anti-Shiite terrorist organizations, “don’t even consider Shiites to be like human beings,” a former parliamentarian that the group supported told Walsh. “Their first philosophy is to kill a Shiite.”

Rehmani and his colleagues capitalize on different but overlapping grievances among Punjabis. At a recent speech in a rural region he shouted to farmers that “Islamabad is a colony of America…. Thousands of their agents are in the capital, and they are destabilizing Pakistan.” Later he railed against feudalism, calling local farmers “slaves to the feudal lords.” One of Rehmani’s main rivals is himself a Shiite landlord. Militants belonging to offshoots of Rehmani’s organization are blamed for horrific suicide car bomb attacks against Shiite civilians that have killed hundreds in recent months.

Much of the foreign press coverage of Pakistan’s upcoming election sounds a note of celebratory anticipation of the country’s first ever peaceful exchange of one civilian administration for another. Less reporting has been devoted to the extremist candidates—some of whom are convicted or charged terrorists—who belong to “civilian” political parties.

Some of these candidates stand a good chance of winning a seat in parliament; others, successful or not, signify what Pakistan is becoming: a country bereft of responsible military or civilian leadership and stumbling down a road of hatred and violence.

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