4 dead, 5 injured in blast in Balochistan’s Sibi


Sibi, JAN 30: At least four people were killed while five were wounded in a bomb blast at a PTI rally in Balochistan’s Sibi on Tuesday, police and health officials said.

The medical superintendent of the District Headquarters Hospital in Sibi, Dr Babar, confirmed the injuries and casualties to Dawn.com. The incident comes just nine days before the February 8 general elections.

According to Sibi Station House Officer (SHO) Zakaullah Gujjar, the injured persons were being moved to the Civil Hospital. He said the condition of most of them was critical and expressed fears that the death toll could rise.

Gujjar said security forces reached the blast site immediately after the incident was reported and cordoned off the area. “A bomb disposal squad is collecting evidence from the crime scene,” he added.

Separately, the PTI said the blast occurred at an election rally organised by party-backed candidate Saddam Tareen, who is contesting the upcoming polls from the NA-253 (Ziarat) constituency.

It said three PTI workers were killed and seven were injured in the incident while Tareen remained unhurt.

“We strongly condemn this heartbreaking incident and demand that attention should be given to suppressing terrorists instead of PTI workers,” the party said in a post on social media platform X.

In another statement, the PTI termed the incident a “criminal failure” of the provincial and federal governments.

“A full investigation of the incident should be conducted and the criminal negligence of the supervising governments should also be investigated to bring those responsible to justice,” it said.

The party also questioned why security was not provided to the rally despite a high alert.

Meanwhile, Balochistan Health Secretary Abdullah Khan Noorzai had imposed an emergency at hospitals across Quetta and Sibi, according to a statement issued by the provincial health department.

“Instructions have been issued to Sibi’s medical superintendent to provide the best healthcare facilities to patients. All doctors and staff are instructed to be present on duty immediately,” the statement said.

It added that instructions were issued to increase the security of hospitals to tackle any untoward situation, gather medicines, medical equipment, lab necessities, and ample stock of blood.

ECP takes notice, summons report
In a post on X, the Election Commission of Pakistan said it had taken notice of the incident and summoned a report from Balochistan’s chief secretary and police chief.

Meanwhile, Interim Balochistan Information Minister Jan Achakzai said: “Regardless of the actions of terrorists, the elections will proceed as planned.”

“The rally in Sibi, which was targeted by terrorists, will not discourage the government of Balochistan from conducting the elections,” he maintained.

The caretaker minister said it was “evident” that terrorists aimed to disrupt the election process and its results.

“The resilient people of Balochistan, by the grace of God, will ensure that at least 50 per cent of the population actively participates in the voting process on February 8.

“I would like to express my heartfelt condolences to the three families affected by the tragic blast in Sibi,” Achakzai added.

Uptick in terror incidents
Today’s incident comes as Pakistan has recently witnessed an uptick in terror activities, particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.

A day earlier, seven militants were killed after security forces thwarted three terror attacks in Mach. According to Achakzai, a clearance operation is underway in the area.

On Sunday, two people were injured in an explosion outside the residence of a PTI-backed candidate. Malik Shah Muhammad Khan remained safe in the attack.

Earlier this month, former MNA Mohsin Dawar survived an armed attack on his convoy in the Tapi area of Miramshah tehsil in KP’s North Waziristan. The attack on Dawar’s convoy occurred during an election rally. The assailants opened fire and subsequently fled.

The same day, JUI-F’s Qari Khairullah also narrowly escaped a roadside bomb in Bajaur.

Last week, caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar constituted a high-level committee to oversee security for the upcoming general elections.

Under the terms of reference (ToRs), the committee will be responsible for overseeing security arrangements for general elections. It will also review and resolve matters regarding administrative arrangements and coordination for smooth conduct of general elections.

According to an annual security report issued by the Centre for Research and Security Studies, Pakistan witnessed 1,524 violence-related fatalities and 1,463 injuries from 789 terror attacks and counter-terror operations in 2023 — marking a record six-year high.

KP and Balochistan were the primary centres of violence, accounting for over 90 per cent of all fatalities and 84pc of attacks, including incidents of terrorism and security forces operations.