As many as 20 civilians were killed and at least 60 others injured when a suicide bomber attacked a public gathering at Khyber Pakhtounkhwa’s Yakatoo area in Peshawar on July 11. A 47-year-old Awami National Party (ANP) politician and candidate, Bilal Bilour, who was attending the election rally, was killed, as was a 12-year-old girl. The Pakistani Tahreek-e-Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack.
The Pakistani Tahreek-e-Taliban is an amalgamation of several terrorist groups that launched an offensive against the state of Pakistan following the US War on Terror. The spokesperson of the group, Mohammad Khurasani, after the Tuesday night attack, in a statement said: “It was the beginning of revenge (against the centre left-wing ANP organisation) and [the ANP} will remain on the target list until they repent and return to the folds of Islam”.
“The anti-Islamism of the ANP is not hidden from anyone, and this secular party martyred many members of the Muslim community and imprisoned many others during its previous government. We have announced war against them,” the spokesperson claimed.
The ANP governed the Khyber-Phakhtounkhwa province from 2008-2013. After the Pakistan military launched an offensive in 2009 against militants based in Swat, ANP workers faced the brunt of violence with a number of party members being killed since 2013. The ANP was formed as a conglomeration of left-leaning parties in 1986 and has traditionally supported the Pakistan People’s Party, the major secular party of the country. However, in the recent years, quite a bit of the ANP’s support base has shifted to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf party of former cricketer Imran Khan.
The bomb disposal squad of the police said around ten kilograms of explosives, along with one kilogram of ball bearings, was used in the explosion. Most of the injured were rushed to the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar where their condition remains critical, hospital officials told the media.
Bilal was scheduled to contest elections from constituency-78 of Khyber Pakhtounkhwa. The elections have been postponed following the brutal attack. In 2012, his father, Bashir Ahmad Bilour, also an ANP politician, was killed in suicide attack.
Chief Election Commissioner Sardar Mohammad Raza Khan denounced the attack saying it shows the “weakness of our security institutions and a conspiracy against the transparent elections”.
An ambulance is seen near the blast site in Peshawar, northwest Pakistan, on July 10, 2018. At least 13 people were killed and dozens of others injured in a blast that hit a public gathering of a political party in Pakistan’s northwest provincial capital of Peshawar on Tuesday night, local media reported.