Peshawar/Karachi: At least 75 people, including a top nationalist leader, were killed and more than 150 others injured today as powerful bomb blasts targeted two separate election rallies in Pakistan, the deadliest in a string of attacks on candidates ahead of the July 25 polls.
Militants targeted a gathering of the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) leader Siraj Raisani in Mastung area of Balochistan province. “Raisani succumbed to wounds while he was being shifted to Quetta,” District Police Officer Mohammad Ayub Achakzai said.
Raisani is the brother of former Chief Minister of Balochistan, Nawab Aslam Raisani. The nature of the attack was not known and police and intelligence agencies were trying of figure out if it was a suicide bombing.
Baluchistan’s caretaker health minister, Faiz Kakar and the Deputy Commissioner of Mastung, Habib Baluch confirmed that BAP leader Raisani had been killed along with 69 other people in the blast. “Initially the death toll was not high but many critically injured persons including Siraj Raisani passed away in hospitals,” Kakar said.
He said the death toll could rise further as 120 other people have been wounded in the explosion. Officials of the Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS) confirmed that it was a suicide blast. They said that around 16-20 kilogram of explosives were used in the explosion.
Following the incident, an emergency was declared in Quetta hospitals, with additional medical staff summoned. The attack came hours after a bomb hit a rally of Akram Khan Durrani of Mutahida Majlis Amal (MMA), an alliance of religious party, including Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazal (JUI-F) and Jamaat-e-Islami, in Bannu area of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. Five persons were killed and over 37 other injured, police said.
Durrani was unhurt in the attack. He later visited the injured in a hospital in Bannu and said that his vehicle was damaged in the attack. Durrani, who is contesting in July 25 elections against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf chief Imran Khan, announced that he will continue campaign despite threats.
No group has claimed responsibility for the two attacks so far. The law and order had suddenly deteriorated ahead of elections despite claims by the government and security forces that terrorism has been wiped out of the country. President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Nasirul Mulk also condemned the attack in separate statements.
On Monday, a suicide bomber killed Awami National Party (ANP) leader and candidate in the general elections, Haroon Bilour and 19 others after striking at a corner election meeting in Peshawar city. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on the ANP rally. On July 7, seven people were injured when a convoy of a Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal came under attack in Bannu.