Friday May 24, 2024

Two separate blasts targeting election offices kill 26, injure 50 in Balochistan

"Government will take all possible steps to establish peace during the elections," says federal interior minister

By Azaz Syed & Noor Zaman Achakzai & Salman Ashraf
February 07, 2024
A damaged car is seen at the blast site in Pishin, Balochistan, in this still taken from a video on February 7, 2024. — Geo News
A damaged car is seen at the blast site in Pishin, Balochistan, in this still taken from a video on February 7, 2024. — Geo News

Two separate blasts in different districts rocked Balochistan, leaving at least 26 dead and 50 injured on the eve of general elections.

A three-day mourning period has been announced by CM Balochistan to mourn the loss of lives in both attacks, Caretaker Information Minister Jan Achakzai said in a presser.

In the first incident, at least 14 people were killed when an explosion happened outside an independent candidate's office in Khanozai, an area in Balochistan's Pishin district.

According to reports, over 25 people were injured in the attack which took place on PP-47 in Pishin.

The injured people have been shifted to the Tehsil Hospital Khanozai, while the bodies have also been transferred, the hospital’s MS Dr Habib told Geo News.

Dr Habib said most of the injured are in critical condition.

Following the blast, an emergency has been imposed across hospitals in Quetta for which additional staff has also been called, the provincial health secretary told Geo News.

He added that operation theatres with the staff are ready to treat injured at the Trauma Centre, Civil Hospital, BMC, Benazir and Sheikh Zayed Hospital.

Independent candidate Asfandyar Kakar's workers and supporters were present at the office when the blast happened.

Kakar — who is contesting elections from NA-265 constituency and Balochistan Assembly constituencies PB-47 and PB-48 in the February 8 elections — himself was not present inside his office when the explosion took place.

Speaking with Geo News, Kakar said that the blast happened in a motorcycle outside his election office.

“Eight of our workers were martyred and more than 18 were injured in the explosion when the names of the polling agents were being finalised in the election office,” he said.

Kakar himself was in Barshore when the blast happened and is currently reaching Khanozai.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has taken notice of the blast and summoned a report from Balochistan chief secretary and Inspector General of Police (IGP).

A spokesperson for the ECP said directives have been issued to take action against those involved in such incidents.

Blast in Killa Saifullah

The second blast took place outside the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) office in the Killa Saifullah district.

At least 12 people were killed and 25 others injured in the second explosion, Balochistan Information Minister Achakzai said.

He said JUI-F leader Maulana Abdul Wassay, who is contesting elections from PB-3, remained unhurt in the attack.

Achakzai said terrorists would not succeed in their objectives and added that the war would continue until the elimination of the last terrorist.

Following the explosion in Killa Saifullah, many vehicles caught fire.

Deputy Commissioner Yasar Bazai told Geo News that most of the injured are in critical condition. “The Balochistan government is sending helicopters from Quetta to evacuate the injured.”

He added that a high alert has been issued across the district. “To ascertain the nature of the explosion, the bomb disposal squad team reached the site of the incident.”

The blast site has been sealed for investigation, he stated.

Superintendent of Police (SSP) Akhtar Achakzai, speaking to Geo News, said investigations into the nature of the explosion are underway.

He added that the JUI-F candidate was not present at the election office when the blast took place.

“Security arrangements have been beefed up in Killa Saifullah,” the SP said.

'Explosive material was planted in a motorcycle'

Meanwhile, Balochistan Caretaker Information Minister Jan Achakzai said the explosive material was planted in a motorcycle, according to preliminary information.

“Further investigation is underway,” he added.

The minister assured that peaceful elections will be held in Balochistan tomorrow.

“Tomorrow the people of Balochistan will come out, they will destroy the ambitions of terrorists,” Achakzai said.

Speaking about the injured, the minister said they will be sent to other cities if they are unable to receive treatment in Quetta.

Achakzai said that the government will continue its responsibility despite the tragic incident.

The minister added that India, a “terrorist” country, has targeted Balochistan through terrorism.

“We will avenge the martyrs, we will end India's terrorist agenda. Our war will continue until the end of the last terrorist,” he said.

Achakzai said the local administration has the authority to call the army, if necessary.

'Conspiracy to sabotage polls'

Caretaker Balochistan Chief Minister Ali Mardan Khan Domki, seeking a report from the home department regarding both explosions, directed arresting the elements involved in the attacks.

“Such incidents are a conspiracy to sabotage the process of peaceful elections,” he said.

Kakar condemns Pishin, Killa Saifullah blasts

Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-Ul-Haq Kakar has condemned the Pishin and Qilla Saifullah blasts and expressed regret over the loss of precious lives.

He has also sought a report from the Balochistan chief secretary on both incidents.

“Every attempt to sabotage the law and order situation will be thwarted,” he said, adding that the government is determined to conduct the general elections peacefully.

KP governor expresses regret over blast

Meanwhile, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Haji Ghulam Ali, in a telephone call with Balochistan governor and chief minister, has expressed regret over the Pishin blast.

'Evil elements want to defame Pakistan'

Caretaker Interior Minister Gohar Ejaz has condemned the attack outside the election office in Pishin, expressing deep sorrow and regret over the loss of precious lives.

“Evil elements want to defame Pakistan by creating insecurity during elections,” the minister said, adding that those who play with the lives of innocent citizens will be dealt with iron hands.

Ijaz added that the government will take all possible steps to establish peace during the elections.

Interior Minister Ejaz, when commenting on the Qilla Saifullah attack, said miscreants want to prevent people from exercising their right to vote.

“We will not allow the nefarious intentions of the enemy to succeed at any cost. Terrorist attack on innocent civilians is a very cowardly act,” he added.

Iran 'strongly condemns terrorist attacks'

The Iranian embassy in Islamabad has also strongly condemned the terrorist attacks in Balochistan.

“Iran condemns the terrorist attack in Balochistan in the strongest terms. Innocent civilians were martyred and injured in this terrorist attack,” a spokesperson of the Iranian Embassy said.

The spokesperson added that Iran offered its heartfelt condolences to the government and people of Pakistan in this hour of grief.