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Thursday, February 15, 2024

Pakistan vows to hold polls as planned despite violence

Pakistan faces twin insurgencies - one in northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa by Islamist groups and one in the southwest by ethno-nationalist Baloch groups.

Pakistan’s general election will go ahead as scheduled next Thursday, caretaker interior minister Gohar Ejaz said, after the meeting summoned by the election commission to discuss increasing pre-poll violence in the west of the country.

The panel had summoned top security officials on Thursday to discuss the clashes in the provinces of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan after the killing of a candidate in a tribal district along the Afghan border a day earlier. “There should be no doubts that the election will be on Feb. 8,” Ejaz said.

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Pakistan faces twin insurgencies – one in northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa by Islamist groups and one in the southwest by ethno-nationalist Baloch groups. A national assembly candidate was shot dead on Wednesday in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. On the same day, another political leader was shot dead in his party’s election office in Balochistan.

On Tuesday, a bomb attack following an election rally killed four people in Balochistan. Islamic State claimed responsibility. Separatist Baloch militants, including three suicide bombers, also launched a massive coordinated attack on a town in Balochistan on Monday which took hours for security forces to clear. At least 15 people were killed.

The U.S. State Department has already expressed concern about the violence, which it said could undermine the electoral process. Pakistan’s Senate had earlier passed a non-binding resolution calling for a delay in the elections due to security reasons.

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An anti-graft court jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan for 14 years each on charges of illegally selling state gifts, his party said on Wednesday, a day after Khan was jailed for 10 years in another case. The sentence, after the third conviction handed down to the embattled ex-cricket star in the last few months, also included a 10-year disqualification from holding public office.