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28 killed as back-to-back blasts hit Balochistan on eve of general elections

Courtesy: Dawn News

At least 28 people were killed while over 40 suffered injuries after back-to-back blasts hit Balochistan’s Pishin and Qila Saifullah on Wednesday, officials said.

The incidents come a day before general elections are scheduled to be held in the country. Pakistan has recently witnessed an uptick in terrorism, particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, raising security concerns.

The first blast occurred in Pishin’s Khanozai union council, situated at an hour’s distance from Quetta, a little after noon.

The district’s deputy commissioner, Jumma Dad Mandokhail, told Dawn.com that the incident occurred outside the election office of independent candidate Asfandyar Kakar, who is contesting polls from PB-47 (Pishin 1).

He said 14 bodies and 23 injured were moved to the tehsil headquarters hospital. Later, the facility’s medical superintendent Dr Habib Kakar told Dawn.com that the death toll had risen to 18 after four wounded people succumbed to their injuries.

DC Mandokhail said the explosive material was planted in a motorcycle parked in the area. The police, bomb disposal squad and other law enforcement agencies immediately cordoned off the area and began collecting evidence, he added.

The second blast was reported in Qila Saifullah shortly after. According to Deputy Commissioner Yasir Bazai, 12 people lost their lives and 20 were wounded in the incident, which took place outside the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) election office.

Bazai later revised the death toll down to 10, adding that critical persons were being moved to Quetta via a helicopter.

ECP takes notice

In separate statements, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) took notice of the blasts and summoned reports from the Balochistan chief secretary and the provincial police chief.

Interim Balochistan Chief Minister Mir Ali Mardan Domki also took notice of the incident and sought a report from the provincial interior ministry. Expressing grief over the loss of lives, he directed the officials concerned to utilise all available resources to arrest the culprits.

CM Domki said the attacks were an “attempt to sabotage the process of peaceful elections” and asserted that all resources were being out to use to “provide complete protection to the public”.

He urged voters to not be scared and to cast their vote tomorrow, adding that security arrangements were being improved.

Meanwhile, interim Balochistan Interior Minister Mir Zubair Jamali sought a report from DC Mandokhail on the Pishin blast.

He said that the country’s enemies were looking to create instability. “The election process will not be affected by such an attack,” Jamali asserted.

CM Domki and Jamali prayed for the deceased and the speedy recovery of the wounded.

On the other hand, the Quetta Bar Association said it would observe three days’ of mourning over the attacks.

“We express deep sorrow and grief over the martyrdom of innocent people in the blasts of Pishin and Qila Saifullah,” Quetta Bar Association President Malik Abid Kakar said in a statement.

“Government and law enforcement agencies have completely failed,” he said. “They have abandoned their responsibilities and are busy with other activities,” he added.

Rise in terror activities

Today’s blasts came a day after at least nine grenade attacks targeting the election offices of candidates and polling stations were carried out in various areas of Makran division and Quetta.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights voiced concern over “all acts of violence against political parties and candidates”.

According to an annual security report issued by the Centre for Research and Security Studies, Pakistan witnessed 1,524 violence-related fatalities and 1,463 injuries from 789 terror attacks and counter-terror operations in 2023 — marking a record six-year high.

KP and Balochistan were the primary centres of violence, accounting for over 90 per cent of all fatalities and 84pc of attacks, including incidents of terrorism and security forces operations.

Last week, 24 terrorists were killed during firefights and clearance operations in the Mach and Kolpur towns of Balochistan in three days, after security for­ces had thwarted three “coordinated attacks”.

Four security personnel and two civilians had embraced martyrdom during the operations.

A week ago, an independent candidate was shot dead in the Siddiqabad area of KP’s Bajaur district while on the same day, a worker of the Awami National Party (ANP) was killed during the party’s election campaign in Balochistan’s Qila Abdullah.

The next day, at least 10 bomb and grenade attacks rocked different areas of Balochistan in a single day, resulting in the death of one man.

On Monday, 10 cops were martyred while six were injured in a late-night attack on the Chodwan police station in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Dera Ismail Khan.

The same day, three children were injured in a grenade attack on the election office of a PPP candidate in Hub, with unknown individuals carrying out six more grenade attacks, including those on proposed polling stations.

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