An important question in the Pakistani general election and provincial elections coming up on Feb. 18 is how the Islamist parties there will fare. These parties, which usually scored below 10 percent in the past, shot up to a total 17 percent of seats in the National Assembly at the last election in 2002. They also won power in North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and shared power in Baluchistan — the two provinces that border Afghanistan and have been most destabilised by the Taliban and Al Qaeda operating in the region.
Zeeshan Haider, senior correspondent in our Islamabad bureau, visited the NWFP capital Peshawar to gauge the voters’ mood. Here’s what he found :
Pakistani voters are expected to succeed where President Pervez Musharraf has failed, pushing back the Islamist tide and throwing out of power political clerics governing Pakistan’s violent northwest.
“God forbid, I will never vote for mullahs,” said Saif-ur-Rehman, a bearded stall owner in Qissa Khawani, a famous bazaar in Peshawar, before rushing for prayers at a mosque in the provincial capital of North West Frontier Province (NWFP).
Parliamentary and provincial assembly polls set for February 18 will take place against the backcloth of a Taliban and al Qaeda campaign to destabilize President Pervez Musharraf.