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July 12, 2018

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Civil, military leaderships unite against terrorism

PESHAWAR: Civil and military leaderships and common people joined hands on Wednesday against terrorism as thousands of determined people attended the funeral prayer of the Awami National Party (ANP)'s slain leader Haroon Ahmed Bilour at Wazir Bagh.

Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa condemned the targeting of Haroon Bilour, according to a social media post by Director-General Inter-Services Public Relations Major General Asif Ghafoor.

"We are fighting against nexus of inimical forces which aren’t willing to absorb a peaceful and stable Pakistan. We remain undeterred and shall defeat them," the COAS remarked.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, Qaumi Watan Party chairman Aftab Sherpao, ANP provincial president Ameer Haider Hoti, former Senator Afrasiab Khattak and Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) head Manzoor Ahmed Pashteen among others attended the funeral prayer.

Stringent security arrangements were made at the venue. The police and party workers allowed the people to the venue after body searches at four places. The city wore a deserted look as all business places were closed to mourn the death of Haroon and others.

Walkthrough gates were also installed at the entrance of Wazir Bagh. Snipers were deputed on the tallest buildings and the water tank near the venue.

However, two of the snipers seemed to be in a relaxed mood. One was busy with his cellphone while the other was holding the railing on the top of the tank with both hands.

Haroon Bilour's body was brought to Wazir Bagh in anambulance. The charged attendants were continuously chanting slogans.

Hundreds of people could not make it to the venue for funeral and remained stranded outside the place designated for Namaz-i-Janaza. Only some people offered the Namaz-i-Janaza and the rest of the people offered the funeral in absentia when the body was shifted from the area.

The angry crowd was pushing one another amid sloganeering which forced Governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra to leave the place soon after his arrival. Scores of policemen were deployed at the ancestral graveyard of the Bilour family where the body was shifted after funeral.

Earlier in the day, Governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, caretaker Chief Minister Justice (Retd) Dost Muhammad Khan, ANP chief Asfandyar Wali Khan, PTM head Manzoor Ahmed Pashteen and people from all walks of life visited Bilour House throughout the day to offer condolences to the bereaved family.

ANP leaders and workers, including women, and candidates for the general election of different political parties and government officials also visited the Bilour House.

Talking to reporters, Asfandyar Wali announced a three-day mourning over the death of Haroon Bilour and other workers.

Asfandyar Wali said the party would run no election campaign during these three days. He added that other political parties would also be approached for joining the ANP in mourning as this tragedy had badly affected the morale of all political forces.

He recalled, "When Benazir Bhutto was killed in Rawalpindi, we along with the PPP observed mourning and condemned the attack on her."

He said, "We are not among the people who could be deterred through such cowardly acts and will never leave the arena for people having such anti-human designs."

Asfandyar Wali said they were not expecting free and fair election or level playing field after such brutal attack on their election campaign, adding the level of their patience had reached its peak.

"First, our beloved companion and asset Bashir Bilour was murdered and now his son Haroon has been killed in the same way and no one knows why," he added.

The ANP head said that Haroon Bilour was just like his son Aimal Wali and for him there was no difference between them. "Haroon's death has critically affected me," he remarked.

He maintained that the ANP was under attack because their opponents knew that no one could hold sway over Peshawar as long as the ANP was present in the political arena.

Talking to reporters, ANP leader and candidate for provincial assembly constituency, PK-75 Peshawar, Syed Aqil Shah said that the followers of Bacha Khan were in millions and would continue their struggle against the forces of barbarism.

He said that terrorists had not stopped the killing spree in Peshawar. Overcome with emotion, he turned away from the TV cameras before bursting into tears.

ANP Secretary General Main Iftikhar Hussain said that now they must take a decision on the future line of action. He said that Bashir Bilour and his son Haroon Bilour were martyred in similar manner.

Danial Bilour, son of Haroon Bilour, was consoling the party workers when the body of his father was brought to the Bilour House and elders of the Bilour family and other ANP leaders were discussing the arrangements for the funeral.

He advised the party workers to control their emotions in this tragic situation, saying that they were the followers of Bacha Khan who had preached non-violence. He added that they would not bow to terrorists. He appeared very composed on Wednesday when people were visiting their home.

Danial Bilour said that he would continue his family's mission to serve the Pakhtuns. The ANP has announced three-day mourning and suspended all election related activities.

Through a statement, ANP provincial president Ameer Haider Hoti directed all the party organisations to suspend the party activities for three days.

He said the party flag would fly at half-mast during the mourning period. He also directed the party organisations to arrange condolence references and Khatm-e-Quran for the departed soul.

Haroon Bilour was ANP's provincial information secretary and was the party candidate for PK-78 Peshawar.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has announced postponement of the polls in PK-78.

Bashir Ahmed Bilour, who was the senior minister in the ANP-led government, was martyred in a suicide attack on December 22, 2012.

Niaz Muhammad Mohmand, former Town-I naib nazim, told The News that he along with Haroon Bilour entered the venue for the election corner meeting together.

However, he said Haroon Bilour stopped for selfies with supporters while he headed for the stage. "I survived because I walked ahead of him to reach the stage," he added.

The funeral prayers for most of the martyrs of the suicide attacks were offered on Tuesday night. The funeral prayer of Haroon Bilour's gunman Muhammad Israr was offered in Badaber village near Peshawar on Wednesday. Some of the dead belonged to districts as far as Dir and their funerals and burials took place in their native places.

Meanwhile, most of the ANP workers wore black armbands as a mark of mourning. A young party worker told reporters that they were tired of burying their dead. "The slaughter of the ANP workers and leaders must be stopped," he maintained.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) announced to stop its political activities in the KP for one day (Wednesday) to show solidarity with the ANP and Bilour family over the killing of Haroon Bilour.

In a statement, PTI Information Secretary Fawad Chaudhry said that the party had postponed its election drive across KP as a mark of mourning on the martyrdom of Haroon Bilour. He strongly condemned the suicide attack on Haroon’s corner meeting in Peshawar, terming it a barbaric act.

He said the PTI stood by the Bilour family and ANP at this hour of grief and expressed solidarity with them. Fawad said poll activities were being postponed on Wednesday as well as the planned public meeting in Peshawar on July 14. He added the PTI flag in the province would fly half-mast.

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also announced that he was suspending his political activities for Wednesday and his Thursday public rally in Peshawar in the wake of Tuesday’s terrorist attack on the ANP’s political meeting.

“In solidarity with the Bilour family & ANP, I’ve suspended my political activities for today and Peshawar jalsa which was to be held tomorrow. Join ANP in reaffirming elections should be held on time,” Bilawal tweeted.

Bilawal expressed his outrage and grief at the assassination of Haroon Bilour, son of slain ANP politician Bashir Bilour.

“Lost for words to express condolences, grief and outrage at the assassination of Shaheed Haroon Bilour son of Shaheed Bashir Bilour. Never ending cycle of national tragedies must ultimately lead to the necessary consistent consensus on combating violent extremism,” he added.

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