Islamabad: Terrorists targeted senior politicians campaigning for Pakistan's upcoming General Election in Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provinces on Tuesday, killing 22 people and injuring dozens more and triggering concern about security for the landmark polls.
Six persons were killed and about 30 injured when PML-N leader Sanaullah Zehri's motorcade was targeted with a bomb in Khuzdar district of the restive southwestern province of Balochistan on Tuesday afternoon.
Zehri escaped unhurt but his son Sikander Zehri, brother Mehrullah Zehri and nephew Mir Zaid Zehri were killed. The bomb was triggered by remote control as the motorcade was crossing a bridge, officials said. No group claimed responsibility for the attack. Zehri heads the Balochistan chapter of the PML-N, which condemned the attack.
Later in the evening, a Taliban suicide bomber targeted senior leaders of the secular Awami National Party in the northwestern city of Peshawar. Sixteen people, including four policemen and a journalist, were killed and nearly 50 others injured, officials said.
The bomber struck when a car with senior ANP leaders reached Yakatoot neighbourhood, where they were to address an election rally. "The bomber detonated his explosives near the driver's door," said Peshawar police chief Liaqat Ali Khan. Two police officers were among the dead, Khan said.
Other officials told the media that 16 people were killed and nearly 50 injured. About 30 injured people were admitted to the Lady Reading Hospital. Bomb Disposal Squad chief Shafqat Malik said the bombers suicide vest contained an estimated six kilograms of explosives and ball bearings.
The bombers severed legs and part of his head were found at the site of the blast, he said. Senior ANP leader Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, who was the Railway Minister in the outgoing federal government, sustained minor injuries. Footage on television showed a shaken Bilour getting into an ambulance without assistance. There were bloodstains on his clothes.
Bilour's brother Bashir Ahmad Bilour was killed by a Taliban suicide bomber in Peshawar on December 22. Bashir's son Haroon Bilour had a narrow escape in Tuesday's attack. The banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the suicide attack.
The Taliban have vowed to attack secular parties like the ANP and Pakistan People's Party ahead of the landmark May 11 General Election, which will mark the first democratic transition in the country s history. There have been five attacks on political workers and leaders over the past three days.
In a separate incident in Peshawar, a bomb went off on the roof of the home of PPP leader Zulfiqar Afghani though there were no casualties. Afghani is a candidate for the May 11 General Election. On Sunday, an ANP leader was killed and another injured in two roadside bomb attacks in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The Taliban claimed responsibility for both attacks, saying the ANP leaders were targeted because of the "secular views" of their party.
Caretaker Prime Minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso directed authorities to beef up the security of all political leaders and to make adequate arrangements to prevent more attacks.
However, ANP chief Asfandyar Wali Khan accused the Election Commission and the caretaker government formed to conduct the polls of being involved in a "conspiracy" against his party. He said certain forces wanted to force liberal elements out of national politics while the Election Commission was focussing on irrelevant issues instead of ensuring the security of all parties. The ANP says over 600 of its workers have died in terrorist attacks over the past five years.