Amidst ongoing election campaign in Pakistan, at least 20 persons, including Awami National Party (ANP) leader Haroon Bilour, were killed and more than 30 injured in a suspected deadliest suicide blast at an election gathering in Peshawar on Tuesday night.
Dawn reports that the blast took place when Haroon Bilour, the son of ANP’s slain leader Bashir Ahmed Bilour and a candidate in the forthcoming elections, arrived at the site where party workers had gathered for a corner meeting. Bilour suffered serious injuries and was shifted to the hospital where he succumbed to his wounds.
A local ANP leader has told that a suicide bomber blew himself when Bilour entered the compound where the meeting was being held.
Shafqat Malik, Assistant Inspector General (AIG) of Police said, “According to our initial investigation, it was a suicide attack and Haroon Bilour… was the target.” Hospital sources say that the death toll was initially reported at 13 but it rose to 20 overnight.
CNN reports from Islamabad that Pakistani Taliban have claimed responsibility for the Tuesday’s suicide attack. Mohammad Khurasani, the spokesman of Pakistani Taliban reportedly said the “successful bombing (in Peshawar) is the beginning of revenge,” and the “details of the suicide bombing will be shared soon.”
In 2012, Haroon Bilour’s father Bashir Ahmed Bilour was also killed when a Pakistani Taliban bomber blew himself up in a party meeting in Peshawar.
The following year in 2013, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had claimed responsibility for an attack at an ANP rally in Peshawar, in which 15 people were killed.
Earlier this month, seven people including a candidate of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal were injured in an explosion during an election rally near Takhtikhel canal.
Dawn has reported that Taliban have time and again threatened to target secular parties for what they call supporting the military action in tribal areas and the “war on terror”.
General elections for Pakistan’s National Assembly are scheduled to be held on 25 July. Awami National Party (ANP), a secular and leftist Pashtun nationalist political party, was founded by Abdul Wali Khan in 1986. It is presently headed by Asfandyar Wali Khan, the grand-son of Bacha Khan.
The ANP governed the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province from 2008 to 2013. It has been a continual target of militant groups operating in the region. The militants killed hundreds of ANP leaders and supporters in attacks around the 2013 election.
On Monday, the National Counter Terrorism Authority had revealed the names of six personalities, including Imran Khan and Hafiz Saeed’s son, who could be targeted by terrorists during election campaign.
Last month, US claimed of killing Pakistani Taliban chief Mullah Fazlullah in a drone strike. Taliban had claimed responsibility for most of the attacks against the ANP in the 2013.
On Tuesday, the Pakistan army announced it would deploy over 371,000 troops to ensure peaceful and fair and free elections.