Explosions near candidates' offices in Pakistan kill 26 ahead of election

On the eve of Pakistan's general election, two explosions near the offices of electoral candidates in Balochistan, a southwestern province, killed 26 people and wounded dozens, officials reported.

Publication: 07.02.2024 - 14:59
Explosions near candidates' offices in Pakistan kill 26 ahead of election
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The incidents heightened security concerns as the country prepares to vote on Thursday amid escalating militant attacks and the detention of Imran Khan, the previous national election winner, who remains a focal point amidst an economic crisis and other national challenges.

Authorities are enhancing security measures at polling stations in response to the attacks. The first blast occurred at the office of an independent candidate in Pishin district, claiming 14 lives. The second explosion took place in Qilla Saifullah, near the Afghan border, targeting an office of the Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI) party, which has been a frequent militant target, killing 12 and injuring 25, as confirmed by Yasir Bazai, the deputy commissioner of Qilla Saifullah. The explosives were reportedly placed on a motorcycle parked near the office.

The perpetrators of the attacks remain unidentified, but various groups, including the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) and Balochistan separatists, have opposed the state and conducted recent attacks.

The TTP claimed responsibility for a separate attack on a police station in northwest Pakistan on Monday, killing 10. The group has stated its focus on targeting police and security officials, not electoral candidates.

Following the explosion in Pishin, Khanzai Hospital reported 14 fatalities and over two dozen injuries. Local authorities condemned the violence, with the British High Commissioner to Pakistan, Jane Marriott, expressing her horror at the terrorist acts and denouncing efforts to hinder the electoral process.

The attacks occurred as political parties concluded their campaigning by electoral silence rules before the vote. Imran Khan, speaking from prison, encouraged his supporters to remain near polling stations after voting, amidst allegations of a military-backed campaign against him and his party, which the military denies.

Khan's call to action was echoed on social media, where he urged peaceful vigilance until final results are announced. His party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), also circulated a pre-arrest video of Khan urging voter turnout.

Nawaz Sharif, a leading electoral candidate, rallied in Kasur alongside his brother, Shehbaz Sharif, appealing to the youth and critiquing Khan's appeal among young voters. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari of the Pakistan People's Party rallied in Larkana, potentially positioning himself as a pivotal figure in government formation, while criticizing rivals for compromising national security and economic stability.

This spate of violence and political tension underscores the challenges facing Pakistan as it seeks to navigate its electoral process amidst threats to security and political stability.

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