Security officials across Pakistan must now face serious questions over their preparations, efforts and ongoing operations to ensure that all candidates across the nation are protected and that political campaigning and the integrity of the July 25 general elections can be ensured, following the suicide attack by the Taliban on a leading candidate from a political party that left at least 21 killed and scores more injured in the northwest of the country. This is a condemnable act of terror and mindless violence.

Throughout its insidious history, the Taliban has shown nothing but contempt for efforts at reconciliation and peace. It has especially turned on at secular politicians in Pakistan. The deadly suicide attack on Haroon Bilour, as he campaigned for an assembly seat, shows the terrorist group will try anything in order to disrupt the democratic process — lest democracy, the voice of Pakistanis be heard above Taliban’s perverted and cruel version of politics. This is the first such attack during this general election campaign and, if we know anything from the group’s previous murderous endeavours, it will plan to strike again to silence its opponents.

Tragic as the killing is, Bilour’s family members are no strangers to the terrorist tactics of the Taliban, and his father, Bashir Ahmad Bilour, was killed by a suicide attack, too, as he campaigned in the weeks leading up to the 2013 election. Haroon’s son is seriously injured in this most recent atrocity.

The membership of the Awami National Party has long been opposed to the Taliban and is brave enough to speak out and offer condemnation. For that, they have paid a heavy price, and hundreds of party members have been killed by the Taliban during its misguided and murderous campaign of violence across Pakistan and against all Pakistanis. The intensity of the Taliban attacks on secular politicians has adversely affected their ability to campaign openly besides thwarting their ability to mobilise party support and retain voters.

The Taliban, whether it be in neighbouring Afghanistan or in Pakistan itself, has shown that it is an evil ideology and will not be easily beaten. Certainly, over the past two years, the overall security situation in Pakistan has improved, but Wednesday’s attack should stand as a very clear warning that the election campaign over these few critical days — leading up to the July 25 vote — is vulnerable, and every measure needs to be adopted to ensure that these terrorists can have no more say on the democratic process in Pakistan.