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For better or worse, my homeland is a country unlike any other. In the past the promise of free and fair elections has been betrayed by dictators’ and the military intelligence’s direct involvement in the lead-up to the elections—disqualifying candidates on trumped up charges, pre and post poll rigging et al is not unheard of. This time around however there is a different threat. You can be killed for holding a certain point of view—but it is not the State that is targeting you. The State, ironically enough, is too weak to assert itself. Welcome to Elections 2013 in Pakistan.

In many ways Pakistan is facing a battle for its long-term survival. I do not mean to suggest that if the liberal parties are kept away from the polls by terrorists Pakistan will collapse immediately. No it will not. But its decline will be precipitated and it will become extremely difficult, if not impossible, to arrest that decline.

Heroism, as judged by history, also involves tragedy. I say that because when you are committing heroic acts, you are often not seen or valued as a hero. It is only later that your sacrifices are recognized. For a party like the Awami National Party this can bring little solace. Political parties exist to win and influence elections—not to be remembered as martyrs in a great cause.

Make no mistake about it. When the ANP workers shout “Watan ya Kafan” (country or coffin) they are telling a story of their heroism, the tragedy afflicting them, willful blindness by the powers that be and State failure in Pakistan over the past five years particularly and three decades in general. ANP is the only party that has gone beyond the rhetoric of this idea of negotiating with extremism militants.

They have chosen to ask the tough questions and they have been paying and are paying, literally as we speak, with their lives. The party that has taken on the TTP is however the party that is disowned by most of Pakistan. The rest of Pakistan for now exists under a convenient veil of ignorance because there are easier, more convenient explanations for the violence in the homeland—the US War on Terror for instance.

Rather tragically, there are two elections being contested in Pakistan. One is an election that is focused on rhetoric and a “New Pakistan”. The other, the election that the ANP is contesting, raises the issue that in order for there to be a “New Pakistan”, the State of Pakistan must continue to exist. And it is that Pakistan which is under attack.

TTP have made no secret of their intention to ruthlessly target the ANP and its support base. The threats have been made to the party’s leaders as well as voters who are concentrated in areas where majority are expected to vote for ANP. Despite repeated calls by ANP to take on the threat of militancy in a more meaningful way, most of Pakistan continues to sleep.

The ANP has sacrificed hundreds of political leaders and party workers. In fact its performance in the upcoming elections is likely to be affected precisely because it has lost so many foot soldiers who could have mobilized it support base to come out and vote.

An entity such as the TTP has as its avowed objective the destruction of the State of Pakistan. The ANP has insisted, at a dear cost, that it cannot negotiate with TTP unless TTP accepts the Constitution of Pakistan and the writ of the State. The TTP will have none of it and will continue to spill blood in the coming days. The rest of Pakistan might be sleeping to this fact but the rivers and the soil of KPK are becoming drenched with more and more blood of innocents.

A party that has been historically marginalized and punished by the State is now suffering at the hands of non-state actors too. And the State looks on—obsessed with its myopic vision of free and fair elections. Even in these dire times, the ANP stands ready to make sacrifices and is trying hard to prevent a Pakistan where every political party might realize that it is too late to save the country. And all that awaits our politics and our freedoms is a coffin.