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Blood on the Road to Pakistan's Elections

This post is part of our Special Coverage Pakistan Votes 2013.

A suicide bombing, a grenade attack and a remote-controlled explosion - all in one day.

Nineteen people were killed in three separate incidents targeting candidates of three different political parties. April 16, 2013 was a bloody day for Pakistan's election campaigners.

Samad Khurram (@SamadK), an active Twitter user from Pakistan said:

@SamadK: Ghulam Bilour (ANP), Sanaullah Zehri (PML-N) and Zulfiqar Afghani (PPP) attacked today. Can we have elections in this environment?

A suicide bomber struck the secular and largely Pashtun Awami National Party's (ANP) election rally in northwestern Peshawar, killing 15 people. Another 50 were injured, including the party's stalwart Ghulam Ahmed Bilour.

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the bombing, which is the sixth attack on the secular party's leaders and candidates in the last month. Earlier this month, Taliban militants warned voters from staying away from polls and vowed to step up attacks against secular politicians.

South Waziristan: Election office of candidate Abdul Khaliq blown up by militants. Image courtesy Pak Votes (11/4/2013)

Violence in South Waziristan: Election office of independent candidate Abdul Khaliq blown up by militants. Image courtesy Pak Votes (11/4/2013)

The ANP is one of the few political parties to have openly condemned the Taliban in Pakistan. Marvi Sirmed (@MarviSirmed), who is a prominent social activist, tweeted:

@MarviSirmed: Salute to #ANP for still standing up to terrorist of #TTP and all their supporters wherever they are #Media #politicalParties #establishment.”

Bilour's brother, another party leader was killed in a suicide bombing late last year.

Hoor F. Khan (@HooviK), a 23-year-old supporter of the political party Pakistan Tehrik-e- Insaaf (PTI) tweeted:

@HooviK: How much more pain will the #Bilours endure? vote nai dena, na dou, jan tho na lo zalmo [if you don't want to vote, don't, stop taking lives you cruel people]  #ANP #PTI #PPP #PMLN

The ANP has now issued instructions for its candidates to restrict their electioneering and avoid “holding processions and public gatherings in the open.”

This is a screenshot from Pakvotesmap.pk highlighting incidents of elections-related violence.

This is a screenshot from Pakvotesmap.pk highlighting incidents of elections-related violence. Used with permission of Pak Votes

In the same city, a grenade was thrown at a Pakistan People's Party Parliamentarian (PPPP) candidate Zulfiqar Afghani's house, luckily no one was injured.  Pak Votes, a citizen journalism initiative documenting and mapping election related violence on a Ushahidi platform tweeted:

@Pak Votes: Hand-grenade attack on Peshawar NA-1 PPP candidate Zulfiqar Afghani. No one harmed in the attack #PakVotes

Earlier in the day, Pakistan Muslim League (N) candidate Sanaullah Zehri's convoy was bombed by remote control, killing four in southwestern Khuzdar city, Balochistan province. Zehri escaped unhurt but his son, nephew and brother died in the attack.

A separatist group the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) claimed responsibility for the bombing.

Commenting on the attacks, Political analyst Adnan Rasool (@adnanrasool) stated:

@adnanrasool: First it was Sanaullah Zehri who lost family .. then it was Ghula Bilour who narrowly escaped an attack.. we need to be united against terror.

These attacks are a rather grim premonition of the elections which are still three weeks away. They also put the nature of these elections in question, with many citing that in such circumstances, free and fair elections seem virtually impossible. Pakistani journalist and columnist Huma Yusuf (@HumaYusuf) tweets:

@HumaYusuf: For those who say militancy is a fringe problem in #Pakistan; is it still fringe if it skews election results? #PakVotes #ANP #Peshawar

Pakistan's elections, the first democratic transition of power in the political history of the country, are scheduled for May 11, 2013.

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