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Caretaker Prime Minister retired Justice Nasirul Mulk on Sunday chaired a high-level meeting of civil and military officials to review the law and order situation in Balochistan in wake of the terrorist attack in Mastung that targeted an election gathering.

Balochistan Chief Secretary Dr Akhtar Nazir shared details of the Mastung suicide attack — in which over 140 people were killed — during the huddle that took place at Governor House in Quetta.

PM Nasirul Mulk chairs a meeting on law and order at Governor House in Quetta. — Courtesy: Prime Minister's Office
PM Nasirul Mulk chairs a meeting on law and order at Governor House in Quetta. — Courtesy: Prime Minister's Office

He also briefed the meeting about the arrangements being made for "peaceful and smooth conduct" of the July 25 general elections in the province, a press release issued by the Prime Minister's Office said.

Prime Minister Mulk strongly condemned the recent terrorist attacks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan and directed authorities to take all possible steps to ensure the security of election candidates and the public.

Editorial: Security, intelligence gathering must improve to avoid more campaign carnage

"Utmost precaution should be exercised and all possible measures should be taken to ensure security of the candidates and the public participating in political rallies and corner meetings," the premier observed, accoridng to the statement.

He stressed the need to take the political leadership on board regarding the security arrangements and to secure their cooperation "in order to avoid any untoward incident".

Mulk instructed officials to immediately launch a public awareness campaign in coordination with all stakeholders, "to sensitise [the] general public about the need to strictly adhere to security [standard operating procedures]".

Speaking at the meeting, the prime minister appreciated the efforts of the armed forces and civil administration for timely evacuation of the injured of the Mastung tragedy and saving lives.

In attendance at the meeting were Balochistan Governor Muhammad Khan Achakzai, Chief Minister Allauddin Marri, Balochistan Home Minister Agha Umar Bangulzai, Interior Secretary Yousaf Naseem Khokhar, Commander Southern Command Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa, Balochistan Chief Secretary Dr. Akhtar Nazir, Home Secretary Haider Ali Shikoh, IG Frontier Corps Balochistan (North) Maj Gen Nadeem Anjum, IG FC Balochistan (South) Maj Gen Sardar Tariq Aman, IG Balochistan Police Mohsin Hasan Butt and other senior civil and military officials.

Earlier in the day, the prime minister visited slain Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) leader Nawab Siraj Raisani's family to condole his death in the Mastung suicide attack. He also visited Combined Military Hospital Quetta to inquire about the health of the injured of the tragedy.

Election violence

The National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) had on July 9 named six politicians, including the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), Awami National Party (ANP) and Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) chiefs, who are under threat of terrorist attacks.

On July 10, ANP candidate from PK-78 (Peshawar), Haroon Bilour, and 19 others were killed in an attack targeting the party's election meeting.

Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which had also claimed responsibility for killing his father Bashir Bilour in 2012, claimed responsibility for the attack.

On July 13, the convoy of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) candidate from NA-35 (Bannu) came under attack. While KP former chief minister Akram Khan Durrani, who had also been named in Nacta list, remained safe in the attack, four of his supporters lost their lives.

Later in the afternoon, a powerful bomb blast targeted a BAP corner meeting in Mastung in which Raisani, who was contesting from PB-35, and at least 140 others, were killed, while over 200 were injured.

The Mastung attack was the deadliest terror attack in the country since the 2014 carnage at Peshawar's Army Public School.

Other attacks on Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) and PTI election campaigns in different parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have injured several others since the beginning of this month.

The Election Commission of Pakistan was informed by Nacta that there are serious security threats to political leaders and electoral candidates and revealed that the leaders of almost all major political parties faced the risk of being attacked.

Meanwhile, political parties have demanded better security to ensure they can freely conduct their election campaigns.

Apprised of the threat to his own campaign, PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari announced suspension of political activities across the country in solidarity with the victims of recent terror attacks.

"120 people are dead in Balochistan; each one of them have families. What would they think when they see me chanting slogans in rallies. I could never do that," Bilawal earlier said at a press conference in Peshawar.