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July 12, 2018

Death toll from ANP rally attack rises to 20


July 12, 2018

PESHAWAR: The death toll from the Tuesday night suicide attack reached 20 as gloom and grief prevailed all over the provincial capital on Wednesday to mourn the death of senior Awami National Party (ANP) leader Barrister Haroon Bilour and 19 others.

The suicide bomber targetted ANP leader and candidate for PK-78 soon after he arrived at the venue of a corner meeting in Madina Street on Circular Road in the limits of the Yakatoot Police Station at around 11:05 pm on Tuesday.

The authorities confirmed that six of the injured succumbed to injuries, putting the death toll in the tragic attack at 20. Most of the victims were staunch supporters and workers of the ANP.

Apart from Haroon Bilour, those martyred in the blast included Mohammad Gul and his relatives, Mohammad Hussain, Haji Musafar, Khalid, Abid and Wahab. Among the martyred, Usman, Yasin, Akhtar Gul, Asif and Najeeb belonged to the same street. The blast toll was high as the participants of the election corner meeting had assembled in the narrow street where the bomber blew up close to Haroon Bilour. The eight kilos, high quality explosives used in the blast and the pellets stuffed into the suicide vest hit scores of people and caused maximum damage.

Thousands of people attended the funeral prayer of Haroon Bilour at the historic Wazir Bagh located in his provincial assembly constituency PK-78 at 5pm. Strict security arrangements were made for the funeral as police had prepared a special security plan for the occasion.

The funeral prayers of 10 other martyrs were offered at the Rahman Baba cemetery while others were laid to rest in their ancestral graveyards in different parts of Peshawar and also in other districts.

The entire city as well as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and parts of the country felt the grief even on Wednesday. Peshawar was in mourning over the tragedy that hit the provincial capital just ahead of the general election. Many markets in the old parts of Peshawar city, Chowk Yadgar, Ashraf Road, Raiti Bazaar, Kohati and other bazaars remained close as part of the mourning. Office-bearers of the traders and shopkeepers had announced closure of their business activities to protest and mourn the incident.

The outlawed Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack. Through an email sent by its spokesman Mohammad Khorasani, it said the ANP was on its hit-list and public should stay away from its rallies and meetings to avoid any harm in future.

The TTP last month lost its head Maulana Fazlullah in a US drone strike in Afghanistan’s Kunar province and the group named Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud as its new leader. The security was put on high alert in Peshawar by deploying more personnel of the law-enforcement agencies and increasing checking and search operations.

The regional police officers and the district police officers all over the province were directed to ensure security to all the candidates as well as their rallies and corner meetings.

The attack, however, will have an impact on the election campaign of different political parties and individuals for the July 25 polls as they would now restrict their movement and election-related activities.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa caretaker cabinet held an emergency meeting to review and assess the security situation for the upcoming election.

The meeting issued instructions that security should be provided to all the political gatherings and politicians for peaceful holding of the polls.

The authorities constituted a seven-member Joint Investigation Team (JIT) under the deputy inspector general of the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) to probe the incident.

The CTD Police Station has lodged the first information report in the incident under Sections 7-ATA, 314 Explosives Act and under Sections 302, 324 and 427 of the Pakistan Penal Code.

The police have collected forensic evidence from the site of the blast. The head of the suspected bomber and other parts recovered from the site of the blast were sent to the Forensic Sciences Laboratory. The investigators are working to find out if a young boy seen in a video minutes before the blast is the suspected bomber or he is also among the victims.

Haroon Bilour’s father Bashir Ahmad Bilour was senior minister in the ANP-PPP coalition government when he was martyred in a suicide attack in Qissa Khwani Bazaar in Peshawar in December 2012. He was known for being among the first to reach the site of bomb explosions to console the victims and raise the morale of survivors.

Haroon Bilour remained the nazim of the urban Town-I of Peshawar in 2001. He was defeated by JUI-F’s Ghulam Ali in the election of district nazim in 2005.

He briefly remained part of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government in place of his father Bashir Ahmad Bilour after his martyrdom in December 2012.

The ANP fielded Haroon Bilour in place of his father from erstwhile PK-3 Peshawar constituency in 2013 election but like majority of the party candidates, he too suffered defeat. He was again contesting from the same constituency, now renamed PK-78, in the July 25 general election.

The Election Commission of Pakistan has postponed election in the constituency after the death of Haroon Bilour.

The news of the blast in the election rally of Haroon Bilour shocked the entire country. This was the first major attack on an election rally in 2018.

Hundreds of ANP workers and residents of Peshawar rushed to the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar after hearing the tragic news. Many of them were devastated by the news of the death of Haroon Bilour and other innocent participants of the election meeting in Yakatoot locality.

The ANP workers raised slogans against the government and the terrorists and demanded better security for their party leaders.

Danyal Bilour, the young son of Haroon Bilour, remained composed and showed courage at the Bilour House by consoling the charged workers, telling them they are the followers of Bacha Khan and Khan Abdul Wali Khan who always preached non-violence.

The news was tragic for everyone as the Bilour family has suffered a lot in recent years. Before Haroon Bilour, his father Bashir Bilour was martyred in a suicide attack while his brother Usman Bilour died quite young.

Shabbir Bilour, the cousin of Haroon Bilour and lone son of the family elder, 79-year old Ghulam Ahmad Bilour, had lost his life in election related violence in 1997. The ANP suffered great loss in 2013 general election when its leaders were restricted to their homes due to frequent attacks.

Hundreds of ANP leaders and workers, nearly a thousand according to some reports, have been killed in suicide attacks, bomb explosions and targetted killings in recent years.

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