RAWALPINDI: The Station House Officer (SHO) of Rangoo police station on Monday filed a First-Information Report (FIR) on behalf of the state against unidentified attackers of slain Punjab home minister Colonel (retd) Shuja Khanzada on Monday morning.
The application was filed in Rangoo police station by SHO Ghulam Shabbir under the Explosives Act 1884, Section 302 of the Pakistan Penal Code ─ which addresses "punishment for wilful murder", Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act and Section 16 of the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance.
The FIR was lodged against all those involved in the suicide attack targeting Khanzada.
A report from an initial investigation given to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif revealed that the home minister was killed in retaliation of the killing of Lashkar-i-Jhangvi chief Malik Ishaq and others.
Two suicide bombers affiliated with the Taliban carried out the bombing at Khanzada's office, a provincial government official familiar with the report, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media, told Reuters.
Two additional suicide bombers had been deputed to Lahore to attack Khanzada's residence, the official said, but they were recalled after the Attock attack.
Speaking at a televised meeting of his cabinet on Monday, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif vowed to “move forward with no holds barred” to take on the militants responsible.
“Today it is the responsibility of the Punjab government to honour the debt of Shuja Khanzada's death and not to show any compromise or latitude to the terrorists,” said the chief minister.
US offers assistance in investigation
The United States has offered assistance to Pakistani authorities in investigating the terrorist attack in Attock in which Col (retd) Shuja Khanzada was killed along with 18 others on Sunday.
"US mission in Pakistan is prepared to provide assistance, if requested, to government authorities investigating this reprehensible act," a US embassy statement issued from Islamabad said.
The spokesman of the mission condemned the terrorist attack on Khanzada's political office and extended condolences to the families of the victims.
"Such blatant disregard for human life is unacceptable and contrary to the aspirations of the Pakistani people for a secure, stable, and prosperous nation," the spokesman said.
"The United States remains committed to the people of Pakistan and to the Pakistani government’s efforts to fight terrorism and fully support Pakistan’s determination to bring to justice those behind the attack."
UN chief condemns attack
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned Sunday's bomb attack that killed Punjab's Home Minister Shuja Khanzada and called for bringing to justice those responsible for the crime.
A statement issued by Ban's spokesman expressed sympathies to the people and government of Pakistan saying, “The secretary general reiterates that nothing justifies terrorism."
“He hopes the perpetrators will be brought to justice swiftly,” the statement said.
“The secretary general extends his condolences to the families of the victims and wishes the injured a speedy recovery."
The attack on Punjab home minister Colonel (retd) Shuja Khanzada took place on Sunday when he was at his political office in Attock district's Shadi Khan village. More than 35 people had gathered to offer Fateha for a close relative of the home minister who had died on Saturday in the UK.
Eighteen others were killed in the attack, including Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Hazro Police Shaukat Ali Shah, who was providing security to Khanzada.
Though it is too early to put together the exact sequence of events, a suicide attacker is thought to have entered the large room where the gathering took place.
The room was similar to a covered veranda and was completely open on at least one side. It is located next to a narrow street and the suicide bomber is thought to have entered it or blown himself up near its narrow entrance on the street. The roof caved in due to the blast, burying those present underneath.
Inspector General of Police Mushtaq Sukhera told reporters at the blast site that there was a possibility that there were two suicide bombers who struck the building.
“One attacker who entered the dera from the street side blew himself up,” he said.
A senior police official said the head of a suicide bomber had been found.
He added that a head of a calf was also found in the debris, due to which the police would also investigate if an animal had been used in the attack; the intensity of the blast appears to be far more than what can be caused by a suicide jacket.
It is the first time that such an attack has been carried out on a high-profile member of the PML-N, particularly in Punjab.
Colonel (retd) Shuja Khanzada: Military man and politician
Deceased Punjab home minister Colonel (retd) Shuja Khanzada, son of Yousaf Khanzada, hailed from Shadi Khan Village in Hazro near Attock.
Khanzada was born into a Pakhtun family belonging to the Yousufzai clan. His grandfather, Captain Ajab Khan had served as a member of the Indian Legislative Assembly. His uncle, late Captain (Retd) Taj Muhammad Khanzada had served as Member of the National/Provincial Assembly, Majlis-e-Shura.
After graduating from Islamia College Peshawar in 1966, Khanzada joined the Pakistan Army in 1967. He later took part in the 1971 war that led to the creation of Bangladesh.
In the military, Khanzada served as Instructor/Staff Appointment during 1974-78 and 1982-83. He also commanded the 13 Lancers Regiment from 1983-85 and was awarded the “Tamgha-e-Basalat” gallantry award in 1988. Khanzada was also among the first few soldiers to reach the Siachin Glacier in 1983.
He later moved on to serve as military attaché at the Pakistan embassy in Washington from 1992-94.
Following his retirement from the military, Khanzada entered politics and was elected as a member of the Punjab Assembly in 2002. He served as special adviser to the chief minister and also held a ministry portfolio.
He was then elected to the provincial assembly in the 2008 and 2013 elections.
Currently, he was serving as the Punjab home minister and was a key player in the province’s fight against terrorism, to which he fell victim.
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— Imran Gabol contributed to the reporting of the story