QUETTA/BANNU: Around 132 people were killed and 180 injured in two separate terrorist attacks during election-related activities in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Friday. Nawabzada Siraj Raisani, Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) candidate for a Provincial Assembly seat, was among 128 people killed in a shocking suicide attack on an election gathering in the Mastung area, some 60km south-west of Quetta. As many as 150 people were injured in the tragic incident.
The suicide bombing came hours after Akram Khan Durrani, Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal candidate from NA-35, survived an attack when a motorcycle bomb exploded near his convoy in the Bannu area of KP, killing four people and injuring 30.
Read: Campaign carnage
Siraj Raisani was younger brother of former chief minister of Balochistan Nawab Aslam Raisani, who is a candidate from PB-35 Mastung from where the former was also contesting election.
“My younger brother has been martyred in the suicide attack,” Haji Lashkari Raisani, another brother of Siraj Raisani, confirmed, adding that he was critically injured in the attack and succumbed to his injuries while being taken to the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in Quetta.
“Around 128 people have been killed and 150 injured in the suicide attack,” caretaker Home Minister of Baluchistan Agha Umar Bangulzai told Dawn.
Lashkari Raisani said and he and Aslam Raisani had also received threats from unidentified people.” The sixteen years old son of Siraj Raisani had also lost his life in a bomb blast in Mastung in 2011 when Aslam Raisani was chief minister. The blast had occurred when Siraj Raisani accompanied by his son was coming back from a stadium after distributing prizes among the players of a football match.
Nawab Aslam Raisani had also survived a suicide attack at Sariab railway crossing when he was chief minister.
BAP candidate Siraj Raisani among Mastung suicide bombing victims; MMA nominee Akram Durrani escapes unhurt as four killed in attack on his convoy in Bannu
The banned Tehreek-Taliban Pakistan’s ‘Ghazi force Lal Masjid’ wing in a Whatsapp message has claimed responsibility for the suicide attack.
Emergency was declared in all government hospitals in Mastung and Quetta which were littered with bodies and injured.
Siraj Raisani had launched his election campaign in Mastung two weeks ago. He was invited by BAP workers and tribal elders to Daring-Gar, a small town along Quetta-Taftan National Highway, some 25km off Mastung. He went to the town in a motor rally and as he entered a large tent where an election gathering had been arranged, an explosion took place.
As result of the powerful explosion, a large number of people sitting in the gathering died on the spot and many were injured. The dead included some relatives of Siraj Raisani.
“It was a suicide attack,” Deputy Commissioner of Mastung Qaim Lashari said.
“The suicide bomber blew himself up when local leaders were speaking at the gathering,” said a survivor who had received injuries.
“The suicide bomber went near the stage where Siraj Raisani and other leaders were sitting and detonated the explosive-laden jacket he was wearing,” he said.
“Everyone was crying for help,” Munir Shahwani, a local journalist said, adding that the injured were immediately shifted to Nawab Ghous Bakhsh Raisani Hospital in Mastung and the CMH in Quetta.
Most of the victims were resident of Kanak and Daring-Gar who had invited Mr Raisani to announce their support for him.
“It seems the target of the suicide attack was Siraj Raisani,” a senior police officer said.
Soon after the attack, security forces rushed to the site, cordoned off the entire area and started shifting the injured and the bodies to hospitals.
Director General Civil Defence Aslam Tareen confirmed that it was a suicide attack and said that around 8kg explosives, ball baring and nails were used in the suicide jacket. “We have collected evidences from the explosion site,” he said.
The remains of the suicide bomber had also been collected from the blast site, police officials said.
The bodies of the victims, who could be identified, were handed over to relatives but a large numbers of bodies remained identified. “Some bodies are badly mutilated,” official sources said.
Caretaker Chief Minister of Balochistan Allauddin Marri has strongly condemned the suicide bombing and termed it a barbarian act. He expressed his sympathies with the families of the victims and said that terrorists involved in the attack would be brought to justice.
Earlier, minor attacks on the houses and convoys of election candidates have taken place in different parts of Balochistan.
An explosion occurred near an election office BAP candidate for a provincial assembly seat Shakil Durrani in Khuzdar on Thursday night, injuring two people.
The convoy of Rehmat Saleh Baloch, a National Party (NP) candidate for a provincial assembly seat, came under fire in Punjgur a week ago. However no one was killed or injured.
Two weeks ago, rockets were fired at the houses of Zahoor Buledi, BAP candidate for a provincial assembly seat, in Buleda and NP candidate Khair Jan Baloch in Jhaoo, causing no damage.
Attack on Akram Durrani
In the Bannu attack, tyres of the vehicle carrying MMA candidate Durrani were deflated due to intensity of the blast, however, he remained unhurt. Five police officials, including a woman, were among the injured.
Deputy Inspector General of police Abdul Karim told the media the remote-controlled explosive device had been fitted on the motorcycle which had been abandoned along the road in the Hoveda area.
He said candidates contesting July 25 elections had been warned about threat to their lives and asked to curtail their movement.
This was the second terror attack during the ongoing election campaign in KP in a week. A suicide bomber blew himself up at a corner meeting of the Awami National Party in Peshawar on Tuesday night, killing 22 people, including Haroon Bilour, the party candidate from PK-78, and injuring around 60. The proscribed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan had claimed responsibility for the suicide attack.
Mr Durrani, a leader of the Jamiat-Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) -- who had served as a federal minister in the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz-led government and as chief minister of KP, then North Western Frontier Province, in 2002-07 -- was in Hoveda, some 16km south of Bannu city, in connection with his election campaign.
Witnesses said that the blast occurred when Mr Durrani boarded his SUV after addressing a public meeting. The explosive-rigged motorcycle was parked near Mr Durrani’s vehicle.
Witnesses said three people died on the spot and another expired at the District Headquarters Hospital in Bannu. The wounded were shifted to the hospital. Police and security forces cordoned off the area and mounted a search operation was to look for the perpetrators of the blast.
The deceased have been identified as Adnan Khan, Ahmad Ullah Khan, Jalat Khan and Umar Darraz, according to a list issued by the hospital administration.
After the explosion, Mr Durrani visited the hospital to inquire about the health of the injured. Talking to media, he said political workers could not be intimidated by bomb blasts and expressed satisfaction over the security arrangements.
Recently, the National Counter Terrorism Authority had issued a threat alert about attacks on leading politicians, including Akram Durrani.
JUI -F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman has condemned the blast and the recent wave of terrorism in KP and other parts of the country. He said in a statement after the suicide blast in Peshawar, the Bannu attack was an attempt to terrorise people ahead of the polling day.
He urged the caretaker governments at the centre and in the provinces to fulfil their responsibility and take serious measures to ensure safety of the people.
Published in Dawn, July 14th, 2018