Bomb blasts kill at least 28 in Pakistan on election eve

Two bomb attacks in Balochistan province, Pakistan, killed at least 28 people and wounded many others on the night before the general elections.

Officials said that on the night before general elections, two bomb attacks near the offices of candidates in Balochistan province, Pakistan, resulted in the death of at least 28 people and injured many others.

The first attack in Pishin district, north of Quetta city, claimed 16 lives.

The second attack in Qila Saifullah to the east killed 12 people. No one immediately took responsibility for the attacks.

The election has been tainted by violence and allegations of vote-rigging. Imran Khan, the former prime minister, is not allowed to run.

The police are investigating the cause of the two attacks.

Balochistan, Pakistan’s poorest and largest province, is rich in resources and has a violent past. Various groups, some armed, have been fighting for more autonomy for decades. Along the border with Afghanistan, Islamist militants, including the Pakistani Taliban (TTP), are active.

The bomb in Pishin, a town about 100km (62 miles) south-east of the Afghan border, exploded in front of the party office of an independent candidate. The provincial authorities said 25 people were also hurt.

Social media images showed the explosion’s force destroyed cars and motorbikes. Officials told the BBC the candidate was with his polling agent at the time.

The JUI-F party’s election office was the target of the second attack. A senior police official told AFP news agency it happened in the main bazaar of Qila Saifullah, about 190km (120 miles) east of Quetta.

Officials said 20 people were hurt in the incident and the death toll from the two attacks could increase.

In the week before Thursday’s vote, there were violent incidents in both Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, and the attacks in Pishin and Qila Saifullah were not surprising.

In mid-January, after taking credit for bombing an election training office, Baloch Liberation Army-Azad (BLA) rebels issued a pamphlet. The pamphlet advised people to stay away from the elections. After that, there were reports of hand grenade attacks on political party offices in various cities in the province.

Many Balochistan voters feel the country’s political parties ignore them, as the province has very few seats in parliament. They often feel the parties impose candidates on them, with little or no connection to Balochistan.

And many feel the election is not fair. “It is a selection,” many people told BBC Urdu in the city of Turbat last month.

After Wednesday’s attacks, the Balochistan government said the vote on Thursday would go ahead as planned.

“We will not let terrorists sabotage or undermine this vital democratic process,” provincial information minister Jan Achakzai posted on X, formerly Twitter.

More than 128 million voters can cast ballots in the election. In Pakistan’s first-past-the-post system, 266 of 336 National Assembly seats are directly elected.

But many people doubt the vote’s credibility as Khan and his party, the PTI, have been pushed aside.

The PTI won the most seats in the last general election but Khan was imprisoned on corruption charges last year and banned from running for public office. Last week he was found guilty in three other cases and faces years in jail – he says the charges are politically motivated.

The authorities deny launching a crackdown, but many PTI leaders are in jail, in hiding or have switched sides. After protests – sometimes violent – when Khan was arrested last year, thousands of the party’s supporters were detained.

The electoral commission’s decision to take away the party’s cricket bat symbol means PTI candidates have to run as independents. Electoral symbols help voters mark their ballots in a country with high illiteracy rates.

Nawaz Sharif, the three-time former prime minister, who was also in jail at the last election, is expected to win Thursday’s election.

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