- Death toll in Peshawar suicide bombing reaches 20, as banned terror outfit TTP vows more deadly attacks in run up to general elections
- Haroon Bilour buried amid tears and fear, as ECP delays polling in PK-78
- ANP chief says party will contest polls undeterred; PPP, PTI suspend canvassing for a day in solidarity
PESHAWAR/ISLAMABAD: Peshawar remained in mourning on Wednesday over the martyrdom of 20 political activists, including the provincial assembly candidate of the Awami National Party (ANP), Haroon Bilour, as the banned terror outfit Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsible for the deadly suicide bombing that has shocked leaders across the political spectrum at a time when the general elections are just round the corner.
The notorious terror outfit claimed responsibility of the suicide attack on the ANP corner meeting in Yakatoot area of Peshawar late on Tuesday night.
TTP Spokesperson Muhammad Khurasani accused the ANP of being an “anti-Islam” party and held its leadership, especially the late Bashir Bilour, responsible for “arrest, imprisonment and killing of TTP militants”. He vowed that the TTP will continue to unleash terror on ANP whenever it gets the opportunity.
The tragedy has also led the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to postpone the election for PK-78—late Bilour’s constituency.
LAID TO REST:
Bilour, whose father Bashir Bilour was also killed by Taliban in 2012 during an election meeting, was laid to rest at Wazir Bagh amid tears and fears.
The funeral was attended by the ANP’s central leadership, including his uncle Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, ANP chief Asfandyar Wali Khan, former chief minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti, hundreds of party workers and supporters among others.
Funeral prayers of nine blast victims were offered on Wednesday morning; they were laid to rest at Rehman Baba graveyard.
ANP WON’T BACK DOWN:
“Come what may, the ANP won’t be deterred from taking parts in the polls,” Asfandyar Wali said as he announced that the party would observe three days of mourning.
Though it will be a peaceful mourning, Wali said, the party might resort to unrest if it was pushed to a corner. “It will not be a good sign for the country if party workers shun the policy of patience,” he said.
The ANP is under siege, however, it cannot declare every man with a beard to be a member of the Taliban, the ANP chief bemoaned.
SECURITY BEEFED UP:
The emergence of the terror threat from the TTP has raised concerns over the security of electoral candidates, especially the secular ones.
Following the attack, security has been beefed up in all provinces. Law enforcement agencies also conducted raids across Peshawar to arrest those involved in the suicide attack, however, the police have yet to announce an arrest.
Bilour’s martyrdom was condemned by senior military and political leaders.
Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa expressed grief and condemned the suicide blast.
Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Major General Asif Ghafoor tweeted that COAS Gen Bajwa said that “we are fighting against nexus of inimical forces which aren’t willing to absorb a peaceful and stable Pakistan”.
Furthermore, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has decided to halt all electioneering in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Punjab following the attack. It was further reported that the party believes that ‘the suicide attack was an attempt to give clear ground to PTI’.
Earlier, the PPP chairman had condemned the attack and had said that “the terror attack on pro-democracy individuals is a conspiracy”.
“The nation should be aware of the fact as to what do terrorists wish,” the PPP chairman added.
KP APEX COMMITTEE SUMMONED:
The government has summoned the KP’s apex committee meeting to review the law and order situation after the attack on Haroon Bilour, said caretaker Minister for Interior Azam Khan while summing up the discussion on attack on Haroon Balour in the Upper House.
Speaking after the meeting, the minister said that, in light of potential threats, NACTA [National Counter Terrorism Authority] had arranged a high level meeting two days ago on the threat alerts but no political party representative attended the meeting.
He asked political parties’ high ups to tell the administration before holding any corner meeting or gathering. Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani instructed the interior minister to submit the report about the attack on Thursday (today).
Earlier the Upper House unanimously passed a condolence resolution regarding the attack on ANP senior leader Haroon Bilour in Peshawar.
Senate Opposition Leader Sherry Rehman, while talking on the occasion, said, “I condemn the attack on Haroon Bilour, a brave son of brave father Bashir Bilour (late).”
She criticised the government for not providing security to the candidates, saying, “If government gives the security than Bilour’s could be saved.”
Senator Tanveer Ahmed, on his turn, stated that the terrorists first martyred Bashir Bilour and now his son has also been martyred.
ANP IN THE CROSSHAIRS, AGAIN:
It seemed with the death of its notorious chief Mullah Fazlullah—aka Mullah Radio—and its former spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan—notorious for Army Public School (APS) attack— in military’s ‘custody’, the ANP had gotten a respite, but the party has been in the crosshairs of militancy, once again.
The ANP, including the PPP, were forced to shun their election campaigns in the run up to the 2013 polls after Taliban’s threats.
Since the operation in 2009 in Swat, the Taliban have been targeting the ANP leadership for its anti-Taliban stance.
In 2012, ANP minister Bashir Bilour—father of Haroon Bilour— was killed when a Taliban bomber attacked his political gathering in Qissa Khawani Bazar in Peshawar.
In 2013, Taliban tried to kill Haroon Bilour in another suicide attack wherein Ghulam Ahmed Bilour got injured. The TTP spokesperson at the time, Ehsanullah Ehsan, had told journalists that Haroon was the target.