On July 15th, a terror attack in the Mastung district, located in Balochistan province of Pakistan, took the lives of over 149 people, while injuring at least 189. The attack, which is considered one of the most brutal suicide attack in Pakistan’s history, targeted an election campaign event for Siraj Raisani of the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), according to Reuters News Agency. Both the Islamic State of Iraq and a terrorist organization that is considered to be the Pakistani faction of Taliban, have claimed responsibility for the attack, according to Al-Jazeera. Authorities are unsure of the validity of both assertions but an investigation may be underway. The country has declared Sunday and Monday as national mourning days, according to the Chicago Tribune, while political parties in Balochistan province have suspended their events rallies after the tragic attack, CNN reports.
The vice president of the Asia Center at the United States Institute of Peace reported to The Chicago Tribune about her concerns that these attacks have undermined many people’s confidence in this election. She said that analysts previously thought the elections are going to be “more secure than they were in 2013, especially after the army announced its plan to post 371,000 soldiers at voting stations on election day.”
Ayaz Amir, who used to serve in the National Assembly of Pakistan but is currently a political analyst in Islamabad, mentioned to The Chicago Tribune that “the government should restrict large political gatherings until after the election.” He continued to say that “during election campaigns when large public meetings and rallies are held, it’s very difficult to ensure security to everyone.” “It’s easy for terrorists to strike, and it seems terrorists were waiting for the election campaign.” The effort to spark chaos before the elections showcases its importance, as it is considered to be Pakistan’s second attempt to transition into a democratic system, The New York Times reports.
Among the casualties was BAP leader Siraj Raisani, who was running to represent the province in Pakistan’s assembly. Raisani is joined by other politicians who have been recently been assassinated by terrorist attacks. Others include politician Haroon Bilour, who died along 19 others, as a result of a suicide attack at another election campaign event in Peshawar. On Friday, Akram Khan Durrani, former chief minister, was targeted during a political rally. The attack killed four people and wounded at least 18, CNN reports. These two attacks are part of a series of terrorist attacks that have increased significantly due to the upcoming election. According to the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies research organization, there have been 120 attacks in the past six weeks, which killed 158 people and wounded over 670 civilians.
The political climate in Pakistan is currently heavily unstable. The past prime minister Nawaz Sharif has finally returned to the country to serve his 10-year sentence, according to CNN. The former news agency also reports he is fined 10 million dollars for corruption crimes. His return has sparked controversy and is suspected to damage his party’s standing in the upcoming election.
As for Mustang, The New York Times reported that the area has long suffered from deadly militant attacks. Raisani himself has been targeted in Mustang 2011 but survived the attack. Twenty-four people died as a result of the bombing, including his teenage son.
The loss of civilian lives is staggering, and this brutal attack is a part of many more. The only viable solution to preserve civilian lives, as of now, is for the Pakistani government to increase its security procedures and concentrate its efforts. In doing that they have the chance of preventing terrorist attacks and ensuring the credibility of the elections.
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