At least 29 killed after twin bomb blasts hit Pakistan on election eve

A policeman frisks an election presiding officer at a distribution center of polling material in Peshawar on February 7, 2024, a day prior Pakistan's national elections. (Photo/AFP)

At least 29 people have been killed in two separate bomb blasts outside poll candidate offices in southwestern Pakistan, officials and local media said, on the eve of an election marred by violence and controversy.

The first attack occurred near the office of an independent candidate in Pishin district, around 50 kilometres from the city of Quetta and around 100 kilometres from the border with Afghanistan.

Caretaker information minister for Balochistan province Jan Achakzai and Quetta police both put the death toll from that blast at 14, with 30 more wounded.

Later, Jan Achakzai, the spokesperson for the provincial government said at least 17 people were killed in the attack in Pishin.

A second blast hit near the election office of a candidate for the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-F (JUI-F) party in the city of Killa Saifullah — about 120 kilometres east.

The city's deputy commissioner, Yasir Bazai, told Dawn that 12 people were killed in the blast, which took place outside the JUI-F's election office.

Later on Wednesday, the Daesh terror group claimed responsibility for the blasts on Telegram.

The terrorists said they detonated an explosives-rigged motorbike "in the middle of an election gathering in the Killa Saifullah area in Balochistan" province, after also claiming responsibility for the first attack in the province's Pishin district.

Over half a million security officers deployed

In July last year, 44 people were killed by a suicide bomber at a political gathering of the right-wing JUI-F party in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

More than half a million security officers began deploying on Wednesday, the eve of the election, with authorities distributing ballot papers to more than 90,000 polling stations.

The election has been marred by tensions following a crackdown on the party of jailed former prime minister Imran Khan, winner of the 2018 poll, but booted out of power by a national assembly vote of no-confidence four years later.

There have also been multiple security incidents in the run-in to Thursday's vote, with at least two candidates shot dead and dozens more targeted in attacks across the country.

Campaigning officially ended on Tuesday night and with voting beginning at 8:00 am local time (0300 GMT) on Thursday, closing at 5:00 pm.

The figures are staggering in a country of 240 million people — the world's fifth most populous — with around 128 million eligible to vote.

Nearly 18,000 candidates are standing for seats in the national and four provincial assemblies, with 266 seats directly contested in the former — an additional 70 reserved for women and minorities — and 749 places in the regional parliaments.

"We must ensure security measures at every level," Sindh provincial police chief Rafat Mukhtar told a news briefing on Wednesday in the port city of Karachi.


Source: TRT