At least 15 people were killed and over 30 others injured on Wednesday after an explosion occurred outside an independent candidate’s party office in Balochistan’s Pishin district.
Reportedly, the explosion targeted the political office of independent candidate Asfandyar Khan Kakar, a former provincial minister, in Pishin’s Khanozai. Kakar is contesting the Feb. 8 polls from the NA-265, PB-47 and PB-48 constituencies. He remained uninjured in the bombing, as he was not present at the office at the time of the bombing.
According to local officials, the injured—many of whom are in critical condition—have been shifted to Tehsil Hospital Khanozai. As a consequence of the explosion, a state of emergency was declared in all hospitals of provincial capital Quetta. The provincial health secretary told Geo News fully-staffed operation theaters were ready to treat injured at the Trauma Center, Civil Hospital, BMC, Benazir and Sheikh Zayed hospitals.
In a brief chat with Geo News, Kakar said the bomb was planted in a motorcycle parked 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 finalized in the election office,” he said, though the casualties had increased after his statement. He said he was en route to Khanozai to oversee the rescue efforts.
Taking notice of the incident, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) said it had summoned a report from the Balochistan chief secretary and Inspector General of Police. In a statement, it said directives were issued to take strict and immediate action against all those involved in such incidents.
Condemning the explosion, interim Interior Minister Gohar Ejaz expressed deep sorrow and regret over the loss of precious lives. “Evil elements want to defame Pakistan by creating insecurity during elections,” he said, vowing to deal with “iron hands” against all those targeting innocent citizens. He reiterated his vow that the government would take all possible steps to ensure peace on election day.
Noting further investigations were underway, interim Balochistan Information Minister Jan Achakzai said the people of Balochistan would retaliate by voting on Feb. 8 and “destroying” the ambitions of terrorists to make them fearful. He vowed authorities would ensure peaceful elections tomorrow (Thursday).
In a statement, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari condemned the blast and expressed regret over the loss of human lives. Offering his condolences to the families of the deceased, he prayed for the speedy recovery of the injured. He also urged authorities to arrest the perpetrators of the bombing and punish them as per law.
Caretaker Balochistan Chief Minister Ali Mardan Khan Domki, meanwhile, issued a statement condemning the blast and seeking a report from the provincial interior ministry. Expressing deep sorrow and regret over the lives lost, he instructed officials to use all available resources to arrest those responsible. “Such incidents are a conspiracy to undermine the process of peaceful elections,” he regretted and urged the public not to give into fear and exercise their right to vote on polling day.