VOICE OF ZAA NKWETA: Violence continues in Pakistan as three suicide bombings took place this week. With elections scheduled for February 18, Pakistani Journalist Munizae Jahangir says that there is a heightened sense of instability.
On the phone from Lahore
MUNIZAE JAHANGIR, PAKISTANI JOURNALIST: With elections just round the corner, a lot of people here are extremely tense, not just the public, but also the key political leaders who want to campaign just ahead of elections. And that cannot be done, simply because there is a warning given to them, and there is this alert given to them by the government that they should not go and they should not campaign, simply because there is a threat of suicide bombers. In fact, we have some key ministers, former federal ministers; we have opposition leaders who are on some kind of a hit list of terrorist organizations. So it becomes very difficult for politicians to campaign. And at the same time, there is this worry in Pakistan that if the situation continues, would it be possible or feasible to have it in an environment where bi-elections can be held? Will people be allowed to come out of their homes? Will they venture out? Will they brave the threat from suicide bombers and cast their votes? So, of course, the situation here is very tense, and people are not sure whether the government is actually going to go forward with these elections. Or are they going to hold back? What is very, very apparent is that the areas in NWFP [North West Frontier Province] are falling under the control of the Taliban. These are militias that are taking control over these areas. They were always there in the tribal areas, they always had a presence in the tribal areas, but now they’re moving into settled areas of Pakistan which are bordering the tribal areas, and that is something which is extremely worrying. Not only are they moving into these areas and occupying the territory, they’re also imposing their own writ of the land: there are orders that girls schools should be closed; CD shops are being banned because their CDs are considered un-Islamic. So all of these measures are being taken in these areas, and it seems that it is the Taliban rule that dominates in this area and not Pakistan’s law. What analysts in Pakistan suggest is that there is no one particular group. There are different groups spread all across Pakistan’s tribal belt and across the province of NWFP. We’re not sure if Musharraf has in fact lost control of the country or not. We really are not sure what is happening within the army, simply because it’s a closed institution, and in Pakistan it is so politicized, yet at the same time we are not allowed any access into the way they think or the way they behave. The general feeling in Pakistan, what the people on the ground say, is that the credibility of this government is so bad and is so weak that they would not ready to believe any explanation that the government gives. At the moment, Musharraf has become the most unpopular president that we’ve ever had.
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