Pakistan election candidate shot dead

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KARACHI (AFP) – A Pakistani grocer standing in historic polls next month was shot dead on Thursday in a drive-by killing in the southern city of Hyderabad, police said.

Fakhrul Islam, 46, a candidate for the secular Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), a coalition partner in the outgoing government, was killed by gunmen on two motorcycles when he left the shop he owned with his father.

“He sustained four bullets in his head and abdomen and died on the spot,” police official Akhtar Hussain told AFP.

His father was not injured, but police said he was in “deep shock”.

Islam was running for the Sindh provincial assembly in national and regional elections on May 11.

The polls will mark the first democratic transition in the nuclear-armed country, which has been subject to extended periods of military rule.

Islam was the first candidate for the elections to be assassinated and the killing was likely to fuel concerns that violence would mar the vote.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Pakistan’s umbrella Taliban faction has directly threatened the main secular coalition partners in the outgoing government.

The MQM said Islam had been targeted deliberately and accused “terrorists” of trying to sabotage a peaceful democratic process.

“The way he has been killed and his father remained unhurt shows the precision the killers have and also their intention to target him in particular,” said party spokesman Wasay Jalil.

“Terrorists are threatening to sabotage elections… but these terror acts will not deter us from taking part in elections and our stance against extremism and terrorism,” he added.

Hyderabad is the second largest city in Sindh after the port city of Karachi, which is deeply troubled by ethnic and political killings.

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