Two explosions near electoral candidates’ offices in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Balochistan killed 26 people and wounded dozens on Wednesday, officials said, raising concerns over security on the eve of a general election.
Pakistan goes to the polls on Thursday amid rising militant attacks and the jailing of Imran Khan, the winner of the last national election, who has been dominating the headlines despite an economic crisis and other woes threatening the nuclear-armed country.
Authorities have said they are boosting security at polling booths.
The first attack, which killed 14 people, took place at the office of an independent election candidate in Pishin district.
The second explosion in Qilla Saifullah, near the Afghan border, detonated near an office of Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI), a
religious party that has previously been the target of militant attacks, according to the province’s information minister.
The deputy commissioner of Qilla Saifullah, Yasir Bazai, said that 12 people were killed and 25 wounded by a device planted on motorcycle parked near the office.
It was not immediately clear who was behind the attacks. Several groups, including the Islamist militant Pakistani Taliban (TTP) and separatist groups from Balochistan, oppose the Pakistani state and have carried out attacks in recent months.
A TTP spokesman claimed an attack on Monday that killed 10 people at a police station in northwest Pakistan. The TTP has said it is targeting police and security officials rather than electoral candidates.
Khanzai hospital, close to the site of the explosion in Pishin on Wednesday, put the death toll at 14 and said more than
two dozen were wounded. The deputy commissioner of Pishin district, Jumma Dad Khan, said that the blast had injured many people.
“I’m appalled by today’s terrorist attacks and condemn those seeking to prevent people from voting,” British High Commissioner to Pakistan Jane Marriott said.
‘Don’t fall for him’
The attacks came as political parties wrapped up their campaigning in the quiet period mandated by electoral rules the day before the election.
Khan, in a message from jail, earlier urged his supporters to wait outside polling booths after casting their votes, as rival political parties held large rallies to mark the end of the election campaign period.
Any large-scale gathering of Khan’s supporters near booths could raise tensions because of what they call a military-backed crackdown on him and his party that has restricted campaigning. The military denies interfering in politics.
“Encourage the maximum number of people to vote, wait at the polling station … and then stay peacefully outside the
Returning Officer’s office until the final results are announced,” said Khan on social media platform X, accompanied by
an undated photograph depicting him wearing simple black clothing.
His Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party also released a video of Khan recorded just days before he was arrested in
August, calling on people to turn out to vote.
Kasim Khan, Khan’s son with British journalist Jemima Goldsmith, in a post on X called on people to vote with an image
of him and his brother holding a PTI flag. A PTI official confirmed the account belonged to Kasim Khan, a rare social media post from Imran Khan’s children who have previously stayed out of the public eye.
Electoral frontrunner Nawaz Sharif led a huge rally in the eastern city of Kasur with his brother, former Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who is running in that constituency.
Amid a sea of tens of thousands of supporters waving green party flags, Sharif called on the country’s youth to support his party and took aim at Khan who has previously attracted support from young voters in the area.
“Don’t fall for him,” Sharif said.
Supporters of the rival Pakistan People’s Party also gathered in the southern city of Larkana led by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who could play king-maker if no one party receives enough parliamentary seats to form a government outright.
The former foreign minister and son of assassinated prime minister Benazir Bhutto criticised opponents, including Sharif, for what he described as compromising the country’s security and economy during their tenures.