ANP leader Haroon Bilour’s funeral prayers have been offered in Wazir Bagh. Thousands of ANP workers and supporters attend the funeral.
Over 500 police personnel have been deputed for the funeral’s security while the bomb disposal squad had cleared the route from Bilour House to the funeral ground.
The Election Commission has delayed the election on Peshawar’s PK-78, from where ANP leader was contesting.
According to the Lady Reading Hospital, 21 people, including Bilour, were killed in a suicide blast at the party’s political gathering in Peshawar on Tuesday. According to the Election Commission, an election will be held for the seat at a later date. An official of the election regulatory body said that polls are delayed for a seat when a contesting candidate dies.
The blast left more than 62 people injured. This was the first major incident of violence ahead of the elections in Pakistan.
The TTP claimed responsibility for the attack. It identified the bomber as Abdul Karim. The terror group termed the attack “revenge” for the previous provincial government led by the ANP.
The blast occurred as Bilour arrived at the stage to address supporters in Yaka Toot area.
Haroon was son of Bashir Ahmed Bilour, a senior ANP figure who was himself martyred in a suicide blast in Peshawar in 2012. The ANP has been targeted by militants in the past over its vocal opposition to extremist groups like the Taliban. Militants have targeted politicians, religious gatherings, security forces and even schools in Peshawar until the government launched operations to contain them.The bodies and injured were taken to Lady Reading hospital and CMH Peshawar. The Bomb Disposal Squad confirmed that it was a suicide bomb.
Police said that the head of the suspected suicide bomber has been found from the rooftop of a building, adding that nearly eight kilogrammes of explosive material was used in the attack.
‘Big ball of fire’
This was the first major attack on a campaign event for the July 25 general election.
As an ambulance carried the body of Bilour, his 16-year-old son Danyal Bilour sat on the vehicle’s roof. He shouted, “Zinda hai Bilour, zinda hai [Bilour is alive]”.Peshawar city police chief Qazi Jameel said the number of casualties was high because the ANP event was taking place at a house in a narrow street.
An AFP reporter saw human remains, shoes, broken chairs, and caps littered at the scene.
Sartaj Khan, an ANP supporter, sustained wounds on his feet. “I lost consciousness after the blast,” he said. “The last thing I saw was a big ball of fire.”
Another party worker, Yaseen Khan, said a deafening explosion rocked the compound as Bilour shook hands with supporters.
Bilwal cancels election rally in Peshawar
PPP chairmain Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has cancelled the PPP’s election rally to be held on Thursday in Peshawar.
The grief over the loss of Haroon Bilour and the 20 others killed in the attack is unbearable, said Bilawal.
The Election Commission has asked the military to help hold a “free and fair election” in the face of security threats. More than 380,000 personnel will be deployed for the elections, according to Major General Asif Ghafoor, the military spokesperson.
The ANP and its ally the Pakistan Peoples Party were unable to campaign for the last general election in 2013 because of threats and attacks on their events and supporters by militant groups like the Taliban. But ANP leaders have vowed to continue their campaign this year despite the bombing in Peshawar.
Pakistan has fought an insurgency since 2004, when militants displaced by the US-led invasion of Afghanistan came to its border tribal areas. These groups have often targeted political parties and leaders who oppose their views. Officials have said that while the threat remains, militants have been significantly weakened because of military operations in recent years.
Militant organisations have claimed responsibility for attacks on several prominent political figures, including the assassination of former PM Benazir Bhutto in 2007.