ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission has delayed the election on Peshawar’s PK-78, from where ANP leader Haroon Bilour was contesting.
According to the Lady Reading Hospital, 20 people, including Bilour, were killed in a suicide blast at the party’s political gathering in Peshawar on Tuesday. According to the Election Commission, an election will be held for the seat at a later date. An official of the election regulatory body said that polls are delayed for a seat when a contesting candidate dies.
The blast left more than 62 people injured. This was the first major incident of violence ahead of the elections in Pakistan.
The blast occurred as Bilour arrived at the stage to address supporters in Yaka Toot area.
Also read: ANP candidate Haroon Bilour among 13 killed in Peshawar suicide blast
Haroon was son of Bashir Ahmed Bilour, a senior ANP figure who was himself martyred in a suicide blast in Peshawar in 2012. The ANP has been targeted by militants in the past over its vocal opposition to extremist groups like the Taliban. Militants have targeted politicians, religious gatherings, security forces and even schools in Peshawar until the government launched operations to contain them.
The bodies and injured were taken to Lady Reading hospital and CMH Peshawar. The Bomb Disposal Squad confirmed that it was a suicide bomb.
Police said that the head of the suspected suicide bomber has been found from the rooftop of a building, adding that nearly eight kilogrammes of explosive material was used in the attack.
‘Big ball of fire’
This was the first major attack on a campaign event for the July 25 general election.
As an ambulance carried the body of Bilour, his 16-year-old son Danyal Bilour sat on the vehicle’s roof. He shouted, “Zinda hai Bilour, zinda hai [Bilour is alive]”.
Peshawar city police chief Qazi Jameel said the number of casualties was high because the ANP event was taking place at a house in a narrow street.
An AFP reporter saw human remains, shoes, broken chairs, and caps littered at the scene.
Sartaj Khan, an ANP supporter, sustained wounds on his feet. “I lost consciousness after the blast,” he said. “The last thing I saw was a big ball of fire.”
Another party worker, Yaseen Khan, said a deafening explosion rocked the compound as Bilour shook hands with supporters.
The Election Commission has asked the military to help hold a “free and fair election” in the face of security threats. More than 380,000 personnel will be deployed for the elections.