Pakistan party announces Taliban 'referendum'
KARACHI - Agence France-Presse
AP photoA Pakistani political party has announced an unofficial nationwide "referendum" asking people whether they want their country to follow the ideology of the Taliban or the vision of the nation's founder, AFP reported.
The secular Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), an ally of the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP), has been openly critical of the Pakistani Taliban, and last week the Islamist militants threatened to attack the party.
The Taliban earned condemnation across Pakistan last month when they tried to murder schoolgirl activist Malala Yousufzai in the northwestern area of Sway for promoting girls' education.
Pakistan has been convulsed by Islamist and sectarian violence in recent years, with more than 5,200 people killed since July 2007 in suicide attacks and bombings across the nuclear-armed nation.
Faisal Sabzwari, an MQM leader and provincial minister for youth affairs in Sindh, said the poll, announced Sunday, was an attempt to harness public opinion against the extremists.
"We are holding the referendum to build an opinion among the fellow countrymen and women whether they want a Pakistan of Taliban or a Pakistan of Mohammad Ali Jinnah," he said.
Jinnah, commonly often referred to as "Quaid-e-Azam" or Great Leader, led the creation of Pakistan as a homeland for Muslims in 1947 in the partition of British India.
"Quaid-e-Azam founded a country for everyone without the discrimination of faith, caste and creed. We want that Pakistan," Sabzwari said.
He said the party was arranging for voting at its offices and other places across the country. Voting online and by SMS would also be possible, he said.
"We are doing all this to save innocent lives, our schools and our tolerant mode of living," Sabzwari said.
A security official said on condition of anonymity that security arrangements at MQM's offices had been tightened.
MQM's powerbase lies in the urban centres of southern Sindh province, particularly Karachi, Pakistan's economic powerhouse which is in the grip of ethnic and political violence.