Pakistan Polls To Take Place On February 8 Despite Spike In Violence

Quetta, Pakistan: Pakistan’s elections will go ahead as planned, the interior minister said Thursday, after the country’s vote body held a meeting with government and intelligence officials to discuss a spike in violence.

Polls in Pakistan are often marred by violence, with candidates and rallies targeted by terrorist groups as well as over personal vendettas.

“Elections will take place on the 8th of February,” Gohar Ijaz, the caretaker interior minister, said.

He added that a spate of attacks in the southwestern Balochistan province, where Islamabad has fought a decades-long insurgency, posed “no security threat”.

“We will provide proper security for the elections,” Ijaz said.

In the past few days, a dozen separate attacks have been reported across Balochistan, at least five of which targeted candidates from different political parties.

On Tuesday, at least four people were killed by a bomb blast near a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) rally in the provincial capital Quetta.

“Security is currently on high alert, all our teams are carrying out extra patrols, snap-checks are also being done, everyone knows that there is a threat in the entire province,” said Tariq Jawad, a police official in Quetta, on Thursday.

Rich mineral deposits in Pakistan’s largest but poorest province have been at the centre of Islamabad’s battle with ethnic Baloch separatist factions there.

Locals say they do not get their fair share of wealth from the oil and gas reserves, with the region consistently ranking at the bottom of Pakistan’s human development indicators.

In northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, at least two candidates have been shot dead since the start of January, including Rehan Zeb Khan, a PTI-backed independent who was shot dead on Wednesday after leaving a stump gathering in the former tribal district of Bajaur.

“The killing of Rehan Zeb is a targeted killing aimed at creating chaos during the elections,” district police officer Kashif Zulfiqar told AFP.

Fifteen political figures in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have faced death threats from militants over the past two months, a senior officer from the Counter Terrorism Department told AFP.

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