Karachi, Feb 7
At least 25 people were killed and 42 others injured on Wednesday in two devastating bomb blasts targeting election offices in Pakistan's restive Balochistan province, a day before the general elections in the coup-prone country.
In the first incident, a powerful blast outside the office of independent candidate Asfandyar Khan Kakar in Pishin district killed 17 people and wounded 30 others.
Less than an hour later, another bomb blast took place outside the election office of a Jamiat-Ulema Islam-Pakistan in the Killa Abdullah area claiming the lives of eight people and injuring 12 others.
Abdullah Zehri, a senior police official in Balochistan Panjgur, said that the blast outside the election office of candidate Asfandyar Khan Kakar was detonated remotely and was placed in a bag outside the building.
"The condition of some of the injured is critical and they have been rushed to Quetta for treatment," he said.
He said so far the body count from the blast was 17 but the casualties could rise.
"Terrorists are targeting the election candidates to deter people from going to the polling stations but security personnel are being increased further to ensure the elections go ahead on schedule," Zehri said. According to local media reports, a powerful blast had ripped through the election office of a JUI candidate in the Killa Abdullah area and caused great damage in which eight people had already been killed.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) confirmed the two blasts and said security had been further enhanced in the province for Thursday's elections.
"The perpetrators of these terror attacks will be caught and dealt with," a spokesperson of the ECP said.
In a statement, Balochistan's Home Minister Jan Achakzai condemned the attacks and announced that elections would be held as per schedule.
"In light of the tragic Pishin blast, which claimed the lives of 12 individuals and left 24 others injured, and Qilla Saifullah blast, which killed 10 people, it is important to emphasize that the scheduled elections will proceed as planned," he said in a statement on X.
"Allow me to reiterate our unwavering commitment to relentlessly pursue terrorists until every last one of them is eliminated...Rest assured, we will not allow terrorists to undermine or sabotage this crucial democratic process," he further said.
Caretaker Interior Minister Gohar Ejaz has strongly condemned the blast outside the election office of an independent candidate in Pishin.
According to a post on X, the interim minister offered his condolences to the families of the deceased.
The attacks came ahead of elections on Thursday for which elaborate security measures have been taken by the authorities.
Violence has been at its peak in Balochistan, bordering Afghanistan and Iran, in the lead-up to the February 8 general elections in Pakistan.
On Tuesday, 10 grenade attacks were carried out at security posts, election campaign offices and rallies in different areas of the province.
Since Sunday, there have been around 50 such attacks carried out in the province and in one incident in Sibi town attackers targeted an election rally of a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf candidate for the National Assembly in which four people lost their lives and six were injured.
Frontier Corps and Levies personnel had reached the spot of the blast in Panjgur but the local police officer in the area said the casualties could increase as it was a very powerful blast.
Outlawed separatist groups in Balochistan have been carrying out attacks on security personnel, installations and government employees all over the province as they claim to be fighting a war to restore rights of the local people and an end to the alleged possession of the province's rich minerals by the government and security forces.
But since last year they have stepped up attacks and have targeted the candidates contesting the general elections.
Late last month, at least 24 militants, four security personnel and two civilians were killed during a three-day operation in the area.
Law enforcement agencies also thwarted an attack at a government school in Pasni, where an explosive device was discovered near the Bagh Bazaar Government School.
The militants have not spared even the residences of contesting candidates and late Tuesday night hand grenade attacks were carried out at the houses of Balochistan National Party-Mengal's candidate for National Assembly, Mir Mohammad Yaqoob, in Awaran district, and an attack on the house of PML-N candidate Mir Mohammad Aslam Buledi in Buleda.
In Panjgur town, grenades were thrown at the houses of National Party leader Abdul Qadeer Sajdi and an independent candidate, Dr Noor Baloch, who remained unhurt in the attacks.
Press Trust of India