Friday marks the last day of election campaigning in Pakistan, and to kick off what has been a consistently volatile campaigning season, the son of former Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has been kidnapped by unidentified gunmen.
Although the intent behind the kidnapping remains elusive, it may be safe to speculate that the Pakistani Taliban has something to do with abduction. Taliban insurgents have issued several threats to political candidates, especially those belonging to liberal and secular parties, the New York Times reported. They’ve had designs on political rallies with suicide and remote-control bombing throughout the election campaigning and have also threatened to shake up the voting process on Saturday with suicide bombings.
Local media outlets reported that Gilani was retreating from a home in a Farrukh Town neighborhood when he was bombarded by a group of unknown men equipped with guns, a motorcycle, and a Honda. The men opened fire on Gilani and his supporters; one of the shots fired proved to be fatal for Gilani’s personal secretary. While it’s unclear if Gilani himself was shot, some witnesses told local reporters that his clothes appeared blood-stained and he was “dragged” by the abductors into their getaway car.
Two of Gilani’s brothers arrived at the scene immediately; Ali Musa Gilani, who’s running for a seat in Parliament against Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, said that he would not allow voting to be held in his election district if his brother has not returned by this evening.
Despite this warning, the boys' father, Yousaf Raza Gilani, proposed party workers continue with their campaigns. The eldest brother, Abdul Qadir Gilani, who is also running for a seat in Parliament, aired sentiment similar to his brother Ali’s — criticizing Pakistan’s election commission and Supreme Court decision to withdraw security assistance for candidates.
“We were not allowed to keep security guards,” he said in an interview with private television networks. “The result is in front of you.”
Militant attacks throughout the election season have hampered the ability to effectively campaign for several political parties. The Awami National Party — whose political position is considered left-wing, advocating for secularism, democratic socialism, public sector government and economic egalitarianism — has appeared to have endured the most violence.
Political analyst Raza Rumi said that the targeting of the family of the former prime minister “does not augur well for the democratic transition” and that the kidnapping “reflects that lawlessness and non-state actors are gaining more and more power and voice in Pakistan.”
The type of violence that’s shrouded the campaigning in Pakistan is a common tool used by individuals and governments across the globe to achieve political goals. Non-state members, like the Taliban in Pakistan, believe that their country’s government will never respond to their political demands and as a result, view violence as a necessary and justified means of achieving their political objectives. Will they unleash enough fear to tip the balance of political power in their favor? Only time will tell.