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Taliban plan to target landmark Pakistan poll

China Daily/Agencies | Updated: 2013-05-10 09:27

More than 100 have been killed in attacks on candidates and rallies

Pakistan's Taliban plan to carry out suicide bombings during Saturday's election in a bid to undermine the poll, according to a letter from the leader of the militant group.

Taliban plan to target landmark Pakistan poll

Pakistani paramilitaries stand guard on a street ahead of upcoming parliamentary elections, in Karachi on Thursday. The Taliban have sent suicide bombers to mount election-day attacks on Pakistan's historic polls, a militant commander said on Thursday, following a bloody campaign which has claimed more than 100 lives. Rizwan Tabassum / Agence France-Presse

Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud, in a message to the group's spokesman, outlined plans for attacks, including suicide blasts, in all four of the country's provinces.

"We don't accept the system of infidels that is called democracy," Mehsud said in the letter, dated on May 1, and obtained by Reuters on Thursday.

Since April, the al-Qaida-linked Pakistani Taliban have killed more than 100 people in attacks on candidates and rallies, particularly those of secular-leaning parties, in a bid to undermine elections they regard as un-Islamic.

The attacks have prevented candidates from the three main parties in the ruling coalition from holding big rallies. Instead, they have relied on door-to-door campaigning or small meetings in homes or on street corners.

Opposition spared

However, the militants have not attacked the main opposition party led by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, which has courted support from groups accused of supporting militancy.

Sharif, who is seen as the favorite to become the next prime minister, says Pakistan should reconsider its support for the US war on Islamist militancy and suggests he would be in favor of negotiations with the Taliban.

Nor have the Taliban attacked former cricketer Imran Khan's party, which advocates shooting down US drones and withdrawing the Pakistani military from insurgency-infested ethnic Pashtun areas along the Afghan border.

The letter from Mehsud is bound to raise fears of attacks during the historic vote.

Pakistan's military said on Thursday it would send tens of thousands of troops to polling stations and counting centers to prevent the Taliban from disrupting the election.

The polls, already Pakistan's most violent, mark the first time that a civilian government will complete a full term and hand over to another administration.

The Taliban are blamed for many of the suicide bombings across Pakistan.

Army spokesman Major General Asim Bajwa said 300,000 security officials, including 32,000 troops, had been deployed in Punjab, the most populous province.

"Definitely they have reports and obviously they have made a plan to counter that," newspapers quoted him as saying, referring to security agencies getting threats of violence from the Taliban.

Another 96,000 security forces would be deployed in the northwest of Pakistan, where the Taliban operate from strongholds.

Reuters

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