ISLAMABAD/ PESHAWAR/ QUETTA/ SHABQADAR/ PARACHINAR:
At least 23 people were killed and 47 others injured in a blast targeting a Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) candidate in Kurram Agency. This was not just the first militant attack on an election rally during this campaign season, but also the first major attack on the JUI-F, a party that has thus far been spared the wrath of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
Political Agent Riaz Masood told The Express Tribune that the explosion occurred around 3:50pm when NA-38 candidate Munir Orakzai was addressing party activists inside a mosque-cum-seminary in the Sawak area of the agency. NA-37 candidate Maulana Ainud Din Shakir was also present during the occasion. Neither candidate was hurt in the attack.
The TTP claimed responsibility for the attack, but the group’s spokesman was quick to point out that the attack on Orakzai was not due to his affiliation with the JUI-F.
“We attacked him because of the crimes he committed against Islam and Mujahideen,” Ehsanullah Ehsan said in a statement.
“He (Orakzai) handed over dozens of Arab Mujahideen to America, who are now suffering in Guantanamo Bay. He worked with full zeal with the ANP, MQM and PPP for the last five years in shedding the blood of innocent tribesmen,” Ehsan said, adding that the Taliban would never forgive him.
He also said that Hafiz Dolat Khan, alias Hafiz Ahmed, has been appointed the TTP chief for Kurram Agency by the Taliban Shura, and added that the attack on Orakzai was his first ‘achievement’.
Despite the claim of responsibility, Orakzai claimed that he had no enmity with the TTP and insisted that they would never target him. “It cannot be the action of the Taliban,” he insisted, while addressing a press conference after the blast on Monday.
Condemning the blast, he said that no one could scare him and claimed that people were jealous of the fact that he would win from his constituency.
Political Agent Riaz Masood said a heavy contingent of Kurram levies rushed to the site of the blast and cordoned off the area. However, the nature of the blast could not be ascertained.
The Assistant Political Agent of the Central Kurram Muhammad Naeem said that while some eyewitnesses reported that it was a suicide blast, others said it was a remote-controlled explosion,
Dr Noor Ali at the Agency Headquarters Hospital (AHQ) in Parachinar said that three of the injured victims died during treatment, while seven are critically injured and have been referred to Peshawar.
Hospital sources later confirmed that at least 23 people were killed and over 45 were injured.
Meanwhile, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Governor Engineer Shaukatullah took serious notice of the blast.
“There is a need to ensure foolproof security arrangements both for the public and the election candidates on any such occasion,” the governor said.
Taking innocent lives, he said, is an act of incredible cruelty and those involved do not have any values, religious or otherwise, and deserve to be condemned by all.
Election unrest in Balochistan
Sporadic election related violence continued Balochistan as well. National Party (NP) president Dr Abdul Malik Baloch’s convoy was attacked with hand grenades in the Turbat area of Kech district on Monday, injuring his nephew Dr Yasin Baloch.
Turbat police official Riaz Ahmed told The Express Tribune that the incident occurred when Dr Abdul Malik and Yasin were returning from a procession.
Though both escaped unhurt, Dr Yasin was injured when his security guards fired at the assailants.
Meanwhile, four schools designated as polling stations were destroyed by rocket fire in Barkhan and Mastung districts on Monday.
In a separate incident, independent candidate Mir Iqbal Zehri escaped a hand grenade attack unhurt in the Sargaz area of Mastung Monday night.
PPP election office blown up in Charsadda
The election campaign office of Pakistan Peoples Party candidates from PK-22 and NA-8 was destroyed when a bomb planted by unidentified militants exploded in the Shabqadar tehsil of Charsadda district on Monday.
Asadullah, the candidate of PPP from PK-22 told The Express Tribune that they had arranged a gathering of party activists for a corner meeting in the office when the blast occurred.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 7th, 2013.