31 killed in a suicide bomb blast carried out by the Islamic State in Quetta during the Pakistan general elections

by Asfa Shakeel

 At least 31 people, including two policemen, were killed in a suicide bomb blast in Quetta today amidst the historical Pakistan general elections.

Pakistan general elections

31 killed during Pakistan general elections today. (Image source: Twitter/Zaid Hamid)

A suicide bomber blew himself up outside a polling station in Quetta. The Islamic State took responsibility for the attack on their Amaq website. At least 30 people were killed and up to 40 others were wounded. The Quetta Civil Hospital went into a state of emergency as it dealt with the injured.

Polling stations throughout the country have been ravaged with incidents of violence and terrorism, despite the army personnel stationed at every booth to maintain law and order. In addition to the attack in Quetta, a grenade attack in Khuzdar and a shooting in Swabi, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa killed at least one person each. Violence was also reported in Mardan, Rajanpur, Khipro and Kohistan.

Pakistan general elections

The election cycle has seen a lot of violence. (Image source: Twitter/Zaid Hamid)

People have also been wounded and killed in attacks on election rallies in the week leading up to the historical day. An attack (also claimed by the Islamic State) on a political rally in Mastung killed at least 149 people, making it the second-deadliest attack in Pakistani history.

The election cycle is a particularly emotional one for the country, with ousted and jailed former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his party PML-N running against cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and his party PTI. The tensions between the two have existed since the last elections in 2013, and supporters of both parties are extremely vocal this time around in their political affiliations, seeing this as a definitive moment in the history of Pakistan.

Pakistan general elections

The elections are a fight between PML(N) and PTI. (Image source: Twitter/Nabeel Chaudhary)

Imran Khan has been vocal about his ambition to curb corruption and bring accountability to Pakistan’s murky government system, but his rivals accuse him of allowing military involvement and leaning too heavily towards the right wing. Nawaz Sharif has been jailed for corruption and his involvement in the Panama Papers scandal, and is currently fighting against the establishment that brought him in at the start of his tenure as Prime Minister and later kicked him out.

Pakistan general elections

Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz went to jail before the elections. (Image source: Twitter/PML(N))

Pakistan general elections

Imran Khan is accused of allowing interference from the military. (Image source: Twitter/Imran Khan)

Voting closed at 6:00 p.m. in the country, despite PML-N asking for an extension. The results are currently being counted, and will formally be announced early on Thursday, although media channels are rife with informal guesses. Regardless of the decision, this election cycle is historic as it marks only the second time a civilian government has handed power over to another in Pakistan: the military involvement in the country has always hindered the democratic process.

Pakistan general elections

Voting closed at 6:00 today. (Image source: Twitter/Nabeel Chaudhary)

Pakistanis have been vocal on social media, addressing the elections, the violence in Quetta and the general lack of attention the province of Balochistan gets from national politicians. Politicians such as Imran Khan and PML-N’s Shehbaz Sharif also took to social media to express their condolences.

Pakistan general elections

Image source: Twitter/Shehbaz Sharif

Pakistan general elections

Image source: Twitter/Imran Khan

In total, over 30 political parties and 12,570 candidates are competing this election cycle. 106 million registered voters will be electing candidates to the national and provincial assemblies.

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