ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -Two days before parliamentary elections, a suicide car bomber attacked members of Benazir Bhutto’s opposition party Saturday at an election office in Parachinar in northwest Pakistan, killing at least 37 people and wounding dozens more.

A second car bombing near a checkpoint in the volatile Northwest Frontier Province killed two civilians and wounded security officials.

The government has said it sent 80,000 soldiers to troubled sites across the country, in time for Monday’s elections, but opposition party members who feel targeted largely blame the government of embattled President Pervez Musharraf for not providing enough security.

“It’s terrorist activity,” said Shazia Tehmas Khan, a candidate who is running for Bhutto’s party for a provincial seat in the northwest on the ticket of Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party. “It’s to scare voters and it’s to scare people away from democracy.”

Security is the responsibility of the government, and they are not providing it.”

In a country where violence often erupts around national elections, this election season has been hit particularly hard. Bhutto was assassinated Dec. 27. The Awami Nationalist Party, made up of Pashtun nationalists, lost an official in an attack in Karachi a few weeks ago. And this week, 20 party members were killed in a suicide bombing in North Wazirist an.

Bushra Gohar, an official with the Awami Nationalist Party, said militants could be behind the attacks.

But the blasts could also be part of government rigging, she said.

Election workers from her party and that of the PPP have also been arrested in Peshawar, she said.

She fears it is having the desired effect on voters.

“You see fear in the faces of people,” said Gohar, who has been campaigning in Peshawar. “How are people going to come out (and vote) if this thing continues.”



(c) 2008, Chicago Tribune.

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Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-02-16-08 1913EST


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