QUETTA, Pakistan — Two separate bomb blasts outside the offices of election candidates in southwestern Pakistan killed at least 26 people Wednesday, on the eve of a national election overshadowed by violence and allegations of poll rigging.
Authorities are deploying more than half a million security officers ahead of Thursday’s election, distributing ballot papers to over 90,000 polling stations.
Recent weeks have seen multiple security incidents. At least two candidates were fatally shot, and dozens of others have been targeted in attacks nationwide.
Jan Achakzai, caretaker information minister for Balochistan province, where the blasts occurred, said, “The aim of today’s blasts was to sabotage the election.”
Despite the attacks, Achakzai assured that the election would proceed as scheduled. “People of Balochistan will come out tomorrow without any fear,” he stated.
A first improvised explosive device (IED) detonated near the office of an independent candidate in Pishin district, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Quetta and 100 kilometers from the Afghan border, killing 12 people. Achakzai and Quetta police reported 25 injuries.
Another IED explosion in the city of Killa Saifullah, roughly 120 kilometers (75 miles) east, killed 12 people near the election office of a candidate from the Islamist Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-F (JUI-F) party, according to Achakzai.
“The incident occurred in the city’s main bazaar, targeting the JUI-F’s election office,” a senior police official told AFP.
In July last year, a suicide bomber killed 44 people at a political gathering of the party in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
While no immediate claim of responsibility was made for Wednesday’s blasts, Balochistan, Pakistan’s least populous but resource-rich province, has been a battleground for various militant groups seeking a greater share of its wealth and has faced attacks by the Islamic State group.