PESHAWAR: The banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on Wednesday claimed responsibility for the Peshawar suicide blast that killed senior Awami National Party (ANP) leader Haroon Bilour and 19 others.
Bilour, whose father Bashir Bilour was also killed in a suicide attack in 2012 — claimed by the TTP, was targeted Tuesday night at an election gathering in Yakatoot area. He was contesting election from the PK-78 constituency.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) spokesperson today announced that the election for PK 78 has been postponed due to the tragedy.
The blast took place when Bilour arrived at the site of a corner meeting. Bilour suffered serious injuries and was shifted to the Lady Reading Hospital (LRH) where he succumbed to his wounds.
Soon after the blast, rescue teams and law enforcement agencies reached the site. Police and bomb disposal officials collected evidence from the blast site and initiated an investigation into the incident.
“According to our initial investigation, it was a suicide attack and Haroon Bilour… was the target,” said AIG Shafqat Malik. He said that initial investigations suggested that a young boy blew himself up at the main entrance of the gathering when Haroon entered the venue.
The death toll was initially reported at 13 but it rose to 20 overnight, according to Lady Reading Hospital’s spokesperson, Zulfiqar Ali Baba Khel.
Scores of people suffered injuries as a result of the blast. The LRH spokesperson told media that 48 injured were discharged from the hospital after initial treatment, while 15 people including a minor girl were still being treated. The spokesperson added that the girl and five others were in a critical condition.
Meanwhile, police arrested a suspect from the hospital. The suspect was among injured people who were shifted to the hospital by rescuers, police sources said.
The body of Haroon Bilour was later shifted to Bilour House where ANP workers gathered in large numbers to pay respect to their deceased leader.
The funeral of Bilour will be offered at 5pm in Wazir Bagh area of Peshawar. Funeral prayers of nine victims of the blast were offered on Wednesday morning and were laid to rest at Rehman Baba graveyard.
Peshawar Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Qazi Jameel said that the provincial police chief has constituted a five-member Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to probe into the incident. The team has been tasked to submit its report within a week. DIG counter-terrorism department is heading the JIT. A First Information Report has already been filed in Yakatoot police station.
Law enforcement personnel launched a search operation in the city.
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. The TTP spokesperson at the time, Ehsanullah Ehsan, had told journalists that Haroon was the target, but “unfortunately Ghulam Ahmed Bilour got injured”.
The ANP, which governed the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province from 2008 to 2013, has been a continual target of militant groups operating in the northwest. The militants killed hundreds of ANP leaders and supporters in attacks around the 2013 election.
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.
The 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”.
Although there has been no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, the city of Peshawar has for decades been a victim of militancy due to its status as a frontline for the ongoing war against terrorism as well as its proximity to the restless tribal areas and the Pak-Afghan border.
Politicians under threat from terrorists
The National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) on Monday had revealed the names of six personalities, including Imran Khan and Hafiz Saeed’s son, who could be targeted by terrorists during the ongoing election campaign.
“Six people include Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan, Awami National Party leaders Asfandyar Wali and Ameer Haider Hoti, Qaumi Watan Party head Aftab Sherpao, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl leader Akram Khan Durrani and Hafiz Saeed’s son Talha Saeed. Moreover, there are threats to senior leadership of the Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz,” Nacta director Obaid Farooq said while briefing the Senate Standing Committee on Interior.
He said Nacta had forwarded 12 threat alerts to the federal interior and provincial home ministries as well as law enforcement agencies.__Dawn.com