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Deployment of security forces bolstered in Pakistan’s restive Sindh and Balochistan as poll violence surges ahead of elections

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KARACHI: A surge in attacks targeting contesting candidates and offices of the election commission in Pakistan‘s Sindh and Balochistan provinces, occurring just 48 hours before the general elections, has prompted increased deployment of security forces in the troubled areas. Since Sunday night, election violence has claimed at least seven lives in Karachi, Nushki and Sibi.
In Sibi, militants hit an election rally of a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) candidate for the National Assembly in which four people lost their lives and six were injured. In another incident, candidates of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) were shot at and hand grenades thrown at their homes injuring at least three of them seriously.
In Karachi a clash took place between PPP and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) workers on Monday night, leading to the death of a 12-year-old boy.
Police officials said since Sunday some 40 attacks or blasts were carried out with hand grenades and weapons on election camp offices of candidates in 10 districts of Balochistan.
“The most affected areas in Balochistan include Turbat, Panjgur, Gwadar, Mastung, Kalat, Khuzdar, Sibi, Surab, and Quetta,” a police official said.
He said in the majority of the cases, the election offices and houses of candidates belonging to the PPP, BN-Mengal, National Party, and BNP-Awami have been targeted.
Most of the nationalist parties in Balochistan are contesting the elections without any alliance with any mainstream political party.
Another police official in Karachi said PPP candidate Syed Zulfiqar Ali Shah was ambushed by armed men and his vehicle peppered with bullets in Mirpurkhas in Sindh leaving him seriously wounded and one of his guards was killed on Monday evening.
On Monday night, unidentified men on motorcycles threw six hand grenades at the election office of PPP candidate Mir Ali Hasan Zehri in Hub town which is at the border with Karachi.
“Three children were injured in the attack. Zehri was not present,” local police officer Sohrab Khan said.
Three blasts occurred in the Kharan area of Balochistan, where unknown armed men targeted school buildings proposed for polling stations. Several school buildings, including a girls’ school, were damaged in the grenade attacks on Monday.
In Panjgur on Monday, armed men opened fire on the residence of Mir Asad Baloch, the president of the Balochistan National Party-Awami (BNP-A). A grenade was also hurled at Baloch’s house. Security guards returned fire, causing the attackers to flee from the site.
The house of an ex-deputy chairman Senate and candidate for the National Assembly from Turbat-Panjgur, Sabir Baloch, was also attacked when armed men opened fire at his residence.
Unidentified persons on motorcycles also used hand grenades to attack parties’ elections offices and election commission offices in Nushki and other areas of Makran in the restive Balochistan province on Monday.
Militants were also active in the Kharan area where the election offices of a National Assembly candidate, Sardar Changez Khan Sasoli were attacked twice with hand grenades.
In Turbat and Tump towns, unknown attackers opened fire on the house of PPP leader Barkat Baloch while a hand grenade was hurled at the house of PPP provincial assembly candidate Mir Agha Rind in the same area.

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