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Pakistan’s election commission on track for polls on February 8 despite security challenges

Image Source : AP Authorities investigating a blast in Quetta ahead of Pakistan’s elections

Pakistan elections 2024: The Chief Election Commissioner of Pakistan Sikandar Sultan Raja on Thursday said the general elections scheduled on February 8 will proceed as planned despite security challenges, particularly in the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. Raja said there was no ambiguity about holding polls during a high-level meeting to review the worsening law and order situation.

The CEC said elements obstructing the election proceedings will be dealt with strictly with the help of law enforcement agencies and the Pakistan Army, and no leniency would be shown towards anyone, Dawn reported. He also expressed concerns over unabated attacks on political rallies and the offices of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

His statement came after independent candidate Rehan Zaib Khan, affiliated with Former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), was shot dead on Wednesday in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Bajaur district, a day after four people were killed in a massive bomb blast targeting a PTI rally in Balochistan’s Sibi.

The chief election commissioner highlighted terrorism as the primary threat to the electoral process and exuded confidence that security agencies will be able to manage the law and order situation effectively during the day of elections. Raja underscored the need to ensure a safe and peaceful environment for political parties, candidates and voters and alerted agencies of elements attempting to take the law into their hands on election day.

The meeting was attended by the caretaker interior minister, interior secretary, director general of the Intelligence Bureau, chief secretaries and police chiefs of KP and Balochistan, representatives of other agencies, ECP’s secretary and other senior officials.

Law and order situation in Pakistan

Pakistan is reeling from back-to-back incidents of violence which resulted in multiple deaths, especially at political parties’ rallies in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, which are generally the most affected by the menace of terrorism. Balochistan, on Thursday, was rocked by at least ten bomb and grenade attacks, resulting in the death of one man, according to authorities.

Several police stations and deputy commissioners’ offices were targeted in the attacks in which six people, including a police officer and a jail warden, were injured. The ECP has sought immediate reports from the chief secretary and IG Balochistan and directed for immediate action to be taken against those involved.

Earlier, three separate hand grenade attacks were carried out against the Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) election offices in Quetta and Kalat’s Mangochar, wounding five people in the first incident. The strikes were followed by another hand grenade attack on the PPP candidate Zahoor Buledi’s house in Kech, police said.

A worker belonging to the Awami National Party (ANP) was killed during the party’s election campaign in Balochistan’s Qila Abdullah. Police said armed individuals arrived on a motorcycle and shot the ANP worker, identified as Zahoor Ahmed, while another individual was injured.

Violence before Pakistan’s elections is not uncommon. In January, independent candidates Shah Khalid and Kaleemullah Khan were shot dead in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Swabi district and North Waziristan respectively. Several Pakistan leaders have come under attack in different parts of the country. The US State Department has expressed concerns about the violence, which it said could undermine the electoral process.

ALSO READ | Pakistan: Independent candidate affiliated with Imran Khan’s party shot dead in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

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