Islamabad: A leader of the secular Awami National Party (ANP) was killed when his pick-up truck was targeted with a roadside bomb in the erstwhile Taliban stronghold of Swat in northwest Pakistan today, the latest in a string of attacks against the party's workers. The bomb planted by the roadside was triggered by remote control as ANP leader Mukarram Shah was driving from Manglor to Banjot in Swat Valley, located about 160 km from Islamabad.
Shah, who was also a member of a local 'aman lashkar' or anti-Taliban militia, was killed instantly, state-run Radio Pakistan reported. No group claimed responsibility for the attack. However, the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan had warned some weeks ago that it would target leaders and rallies of the ANP, Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) in the run-up to the May 11 polls.
Swat was a stronghold for the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan till early 2009, when the army launched a massive operation to flush out the militants. However, most of the Taliban fighters and commanders in the region fled to Afghanistan. Last week, a MQM candidate for the general election was gunned down by the Taliban near his home in Hyderabad city of southern Sindh province.
The Taliban has targeted ANP leaders and workers more frequently than workers of other parties. On February 15, senior ANP leader and former Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti, survived an assassination bid by a Taliban suicide bomber. On December 22, senior ANP leader Bashir Ahmad Bilour was killed by a Taliban suicide bomber in Peshawar.
The ANP says it has lost over 700 workers and leaders in terrorist attacks since 2008. The recent spike in violence has forced the ANP to curtail its election campaign.