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Political Campaigning Ends for Pakistan's Violence-Marred Election on Monday

  • VOA News

Sunday is a cooling-off day in Pakistan, with all political activity forbidden until Monday's parliamentary elections.

Eighty thousand troops and nearly 400 thousand police are assigned to provide security during the vote, following weeks and months of politically motivated violence that has killed hundreds of people.

One of the worst attacks was a suicide bomb blast Saturday in Pakistan's northwestern tribal region, near the Afghanistan border. An attacker who drove his car into a crowd at a political rally (in Parachinar town) and blew himself up, killed 37 or more people and wounded at least 90 others.

Those at the opposition rally included members of the Pakistan People's Party, led by Benazir Bhutto until her assassination nearly two months ago (December 27th) in Rawalpindi.

Asif Ali Zardari, husband of the former prime minister and now one of the leaders of her party, appealed for calm Saturday and urged Pakistanis not to give up on democracy despite the bombings and killings that have scarred the country.


In Washington, a White House spokesman ,Gordon Johndroe said the United States is hopeful that pre-election violence will not deter Pakistani voters. Analysts in Pakistan, however, say turnout is uncertain. Monday's vote will determine the makeup of Pakistan's National Assembly and provincial assemblies, and could determine the future of President Pervez Musharraf.

Mr. Musharraf, who took power in a coup in 1999, was elected to a second term as president last year by parliament . If opposition groups win a big majority in parliament on Monday, they could try to impeach the former armed forces chief, whose popularity has plunged steeply during the past year.

The opposition - the Bhuttos' P.P.P., (the PML-N) another party led by deposed former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other groups - have said they expect the government to rig the election in favor of Mr. Musharraf's Pakistan Muslim League, and have already threatened mass demonstrations if they believe there are irregularities in the voting

In addition to the explosion Saturday that caused mass casualties in Parachinar town near the Afghan border, army officials reported a second suicide attack in the northwestern Swat Valley. They say a man detonated his explosives-packed car at a checkpoint near a military media center, killing at least two civilians and wounding more than eight people, including soldiers.
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