QUETTA, Pakistan – Explosions rocked two separate political offices in southwestern Pakistan on Wednesday, resulting in the tragic loss of at least 30 lives, officials confirmed. The incidents occurred just a day before the nation was poised to elect its new parliament.
The bombings, which occurred in Baluchistan province—a region known for its ongoing insurgency and presence of various militant factions—have sparked heightened concerns ahead of the impending elections. This turmoil comes at a time when many voters are already disheartened by political discord and an entrenched economic crisis.
Incidents of violence leading up to elections and on polling day are unfortunately not uncommon in Pakistan, a nation grappling with militant challenges. In response to a recent surge in attacks, particularly in Baluchistan, tens of thousands of police and paramilitary personnel have been deployed across the country. Following the second attack on Wednesday, the Islamic State group’s branch in Pakistan claimed responsibility for the devastating assault.
The initial attack targeted the election office of independent candidate Asfandyar Khan in the Pashin district, resulting in the tragic loss of at least 18 lives, as reported by government official Jumadad Mandokhel.
Shortly thereafter, another explosion rocked the Jamiat Ulema Islam party office in Qilla Saifullah, approximately 130 kilometers (80 miles) away, claiming the lives of at least 12 individuals, according to Jan Achakzai, spokesperson for the provincial government. Despite the bombings, Achakzai affirmed that the elections would proceed as scheduled.
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The attacks, which also left numerous individuals injured, drew swift condemnation from across the political spectrum. Subsequently, in Karachi, a man detonated a hand grenade prematurely, resulting in his own death and the tragic loss of two bystanders, as confirmed by police official Arfan Bahadur. The source of the grenade remains under investigation.
Jamiat Ulema Islam, a prominent radical Islamist party with ties to Afghanistan’s Taliban, has been targeted by both the Islamic State group and other militant factions in recent years. In July, a suicide bombing at a party rally claimed the lives of at least 54 people, with an Afghan branch of the Islamic State group claiming responsibility for the attack.
The province of Baluchistan, rich in natural gas and situated on the border with Afghanistan and Iran, has been plagued by insurgency for over two decades, led by Baluch nationalists advocating for independence. While these nationalists typically target security forces, recent years have seen an increase in attacks on civilian and political entities.
The Pakistani Taliban, along with other militant groups, also maintain a significant presence in Baluchistan and have targeted civilians in various attacks. Despite pledging not to target election rallies ahead of the vote, the Pakistani Taliban’s influence remains a concern.
Analysts, including Abdullah Khan from the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies, warn of the possibility of further violence on election day. Multiple groups, including splinter factions within the Pakistani Taliban, the Islamic State, Baluch nationalists, and al-Qaida, are seen as potential perpetrators of such attacks.
Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul-Haq-Kakar condemned the bombings and extended condolences to the bereaved families. He reiterated the government’s commitment to maintaining law and order, vowing to thwart any attempts to disrupt the electoral process. Despite the tragic events, Achakzai affirmed that elections would proceed as scheduled, urging citizens to exercise their right to vote and defeat those seeking to undermine the democratic process.
Achakzai also announced a three-day mourning period in the wake of the attacks, emphasizing the importance of upholding democratic norms amidst adversity.