At least 70 people, including politician Nawabzada Siraj Raisani, were killed and 120 injured in a deadly blast in Balochistan's Mastung district Friday afternoon, provincial Health Minister Faiz Kakar confirmed to DawnNewsTV.
Balochistan's Civil Defence Director Aslam Tareen as well as Bungalzai both said the blast was a suicide attack.
Tareen said 8 to 10 kilograms of explosives and ball bearings were used in the attack.
Kakar said that the deceased were taken to Civil Hospital Quetta, Bolan Medical Complex and Combined Military Hospital Quetta. Over two dozen bodies, however, were kept in Mastung, he added.
Civil Hospital Spokesperson Waseem Baig said the hospital received 53 bodies and 73 wounded. At least 20 of those injured are in critical condition.
The younger brother of former Balochistan chief minister Nawab Aslam Raisani, Nawabzada Siraj had been chief of the Balochistan Muttahida Mahaz (BMM), formed by Nawab Ghous Bakhsh Raisani in the 1970s, till June this year.
He was contesting PB-35 (Mastung) for the 2018 elections against his own brother Nawab Aslam Raisani, who is contesting as an independent candidate.
Siraj's teenage son, Hakmal Raisani, had been killed in a grenade attack on his vehicle in the same district in 2011. Siraj, who had been present inside the vehicle at the time of the attack, had escaped unhurt.
Shrugging off the threat to his own life, he had said at the time that he would continue to "raise the slogan of Pakistan".
The Mastung bombing was the latest — and deadliest — of a string of attacks targeting politically exposed persons ahead of the July 25 election.
Earlier today, a blast targeted former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister Akram Khan Durrani's convoy in Bannu. While Durrani remained safe, four people were killed and 32 others injured in the attack.
Last night, two people had been injured in a blast near BAP's election office in Khuzdar.
On July 10, a suicide blast had killed Awami National Party (ANP) leader Haroon Bilour and 19 others in Peshawar's Yaktoot area. The attack was claimed by the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) which had also claimed responsibility for 2012 attack that killed Haroon's father, Bashir Bilour.
On July 7, at least seven people, including a candidate of Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), were injured when a convoy came under a bomb attack in Bannu.
Earlier this month, an attack on a Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) candidate's office in North Waziristan's Razmak tehsil had injured 10.
Following the attacks, activists have called for authorities to remain vigilant to protect candidates during the final days of the campaign season.
"The Pakistani authorities have a duty to protect the rights of all Pakistanis during this election period ─ their physical security and their ability to express their political views freely, regardless of which party they belong to," said Omar Waraich, deputy South Asia director at Amnesty International.