Sadly the organisation most talked about in the approach to the 11 May poll is the Pakistani Taliban, whose stated aim of doing all it can to disrupt the election appears to be succeeding.
At least 50 people have died in election-related bombings and shootings – and that figure will almost certainly increase significantly over the next few days.
The Government seems powerless to stop them.
An incredible 22,000 troops and police are being deployed in Baluchistan, the poorest region of the country where the Taliban is expected to be most active, but in fact the terrorist group is striking at will all over the country including the major cities.
The main target is the Awami National Party (ANP), which has no real chance of gaining power in its own right. But it is a secular party which is anathema to the fundamentalist Taliban. Even before the election began 40 ANP activists were killed in numerous targeted attacks in the southern city of Karachi, effectively stifling the party’s campaign there.
More recently 16 people died in Peshawar in a suicide attack at a rally attended by senior ANP leaders, and an ANP candidate, Mukarram Shah, was killed in Swat.
The relentless catalogue of death is having its effect. Teachers in Baluchistan are refusing to perform their traditional task of manning polling stations because of Taliban death threats, while the governing Pakistan People’s Party, which has also received terrorist threats, has scaled back its campaigns in the most dangerous areas.
The Taliban appears to be favouring a victory by the Pakistan Muslim League, the party of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is widely believed to be open to negotiations at least with the more moderate Taliban representatives.
The situation is best summed up by Asad Munir, a retired army brigadier who once worked for the country’s intelligence agency.
“The most effective campaign is being run by the Taliban. They are holding the state of Pakistan hostage,” Munir said.