Pakistan is trying to finish its first-ever peaceful democratic transition, but extremists representing a small portion of the population will do anything they can to stop it. On Saturday, the country will hold a nationwide general election as Taliban and other forces ramp up violence in an effort to derail the proceedings. Attacks on candidates and election rallies have plagued the two-month long campaign, with more than a hundred people killed. In the latest assault on Thursday, the son of former Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani was kidnapped and two people from his entourage were murdered. No one has claimed responsibility for the taking of his son, who is himself a candidate for Parliament.
The elder Gilani is a member of the ruling Pakistan People's Party, which in March became the country's first democratically elected government to successfully finish a full five-year term. It wasn't without its turmoil, though, as the position of president was disolved (and the powers transfered to the Prime Minister) and the elder Gilani was removed from office by the Supreme Court. Still, the party has maintained its parliamentary dominance, even as it came under fierce attack from Taliban terrorists trying to destabilize the government.
Other parties in the ruling coalition have been hit hard as well. The head of Awami National Party, who is one of the most outspoken critics of the Taliban, has not gone out in public since the campaign began. Meanwhile, the Muslim League-Nawaz and the Tehreek-e-Insaf party (founded by former national cricket captain Imran Khan) have been mostly untouched by the violence, because they have advocated making peace with the Taliban and withdrawing Pakistan from its close alliance with the United States. (Although Khan was seriously injured this week—not by a terrorist attack, but when he fell off a stage at a rally.)
With the nationwide vote scheduled for Saturday, the Taliban and al-Qaeda forces are promising mayhem. The Taliban released a statement this week laying out plans to attack polling stations in all four of the country's provinces on election day, including using suicide bombers to disrupt the vote. In response, the military has dispatched hundreds of thousands of soldiers and security officers to try head off the violence. Whether it will be enough to get their preferred candidates in power, or undo the government altogether, is another matter.