Explosions rock North Waziristan, Balochistan
The death toll from election-related violence rose on Friday when two bombs targeting candidate offices exploded in Miran Shah, North Waziristan, killing 4 and wounding 15 (AP, Dawn, ET). Multiple candidates have offices in the area where the attack occurred so it is unclear who the targets were and no one has claimed responsibility, though suspicion will likely fall on the Pakistani Taliban, which has routinely threatened secular party candidates.
An electoral office for the Pakistan People's Party in Quetta, Balochistan, was also targeted and at least five people were injured when a bomb on the building's roof exploded Friday morning (Dawn, ET). In separate incidents, militants blew up three proposed polling stations in Dera Bugti, fired rockets at two polling stations in Pajgoor, and threw a petrol bomb at the Balochistan National Party Mengal's office. No loss of life was reported.
A day before the historic election, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Imran Khan seemed to be enjoying a late surge of support, raising the prospect that no candidate will win a clear majority on Saturday (Dawn, ET/Reuters). This fragmentation could lead to weeks of political haggling as parties work to form a coalition, clouding some of the optimism that has accompanied the first transition between civilian governments.
More weapons more problems
As tensions continue to rise between Afghanistan and Pakistan over its disputed border, the Afghan border police are demanding more sophisticated weapons-claiming their mortars and machines are no match for Pakistan's heavy artillery and tanks (ET/Reuters). Cross-border clashes that began last week and continued on Monday have sparked widespread protests and declarations of "Death to Pakistan" (AP). With Pakistan long seen by the U.S. as a critical partner in assuring Afghanistan's security once coalition troops withdraw, the increased hostility is complicating an already contentious issue.
On Thursday, the White House disputed reports that it wants to maintain nine permanent military bases in Afghanistan after the majority of troops withdraw in 2014 (Pajhwok, White House). Contrary to recent statements made by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that any U.S. presence in the country after next December would only be at the invitation of the Afghan government and that they envision a bilateral security agreement that will address the use of Afghan bases by U.S. forces.
Oh tiger, where art thou?
On Thursday, Dawn reported the death of a tigress that has served as a campaign mascot for Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader, Nawaz Sharif (Dawn). Many argued the death was the result of an exhaustive campaign schedule but on Friday, several media outlets reported that it had seen the tigress in her cage and that she was alive, well, and "in rude good health" (BBC, Dawn, ET, WSJ).
-- Jennifer Rowland and Bailey Cahall