DERA ISMAIL KHAN: Khyber Pakhunkhwa witnessed two more attacks on election candidates on Sunday, one killing Sardar Ikramullah Khan Gandapur of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and the other targeting Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) leader Akram Khan Durrani. Akram Durrani, however, remained unhurt.
Mr Gandapur, a candidate from the KP Assembly’s constituency PK-99, was killed while his driver and two police guards were among five injured in a suicide blast in the Kulachi area of Dera Ismail Khan district.
The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement sent to media outlets.
According to sources, a day earlier Mr Gandapur had said he would hold a sit-in at Hathala, Tank Ring Road, on Sunday in protest against police failure to arrest a former provincial minister of the PTI who had been nominated in an FIR over the murder of his brother Israrullah Gandapur.
JUI-F’s Durrani survives second attack in Bannu
They said that Mr Gandapur had left for the designated place of the sit-in after attending a corner meeting when he came under attack.
Police said a suicide bomber appeared in a narrow street near Noori Darbar and blew himself up near the vehicle of Ikramullah Gandapur. The PTI candidate, who had served as agriculture minister in the previous KP government, his driver, two policemen and two other people suffered injuries. They were taken to the Combined Military Hospital in Dera Ismail Khan, where Mr Gandapur died.
The injured were identified as driver Muhammad Ramzan, police constables Abdur Raziq and Dil Nawaz, PTI supporter Najeeb Shah and Saifur Rehman, a passerby.
Police cordoned off the site and collected evidence. According to the Bomb Disposal Unit, explosives weighing eight to 10 kilograms were used in the attack.
Police said the head and other parts of a body, presumably of the suicide bomber, were recovered from the scene.
DPO Zahoor Afridi said that it was a suicide attack, adding that police had provided 13 guards to Mr Gandapur and had issued an advisory before the attack.
A TTP spokesman, Muhammad Khurasani, said in his statement that Mr Gandapur was targeted because he had killed Maulvi Qutbuddin, Qari Ikram, Malang and several other Taliban militants. The spokesman warned of more attacks on security agencies and government functionaries “to avenge death of our colleagues”.
Ikramullah Gandapur’s funeral will be offered on Monday (today) in Kulachi and he will be laid to rest at his ancestral graveyard.
Meanwhile, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has postponed the election in PK-99 and all political parties have suspended their campaigns in Dera Ismail Khan to mourn Mr Gandapur’s death.
Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) retd Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza expressed concern and grief over the death of the PTI candidate and injuries to others in the suicide attack.
The CEC called for a report from the caretaker chief minister, the inspector general, and the chief secretary of KP and asked them to explain why stringent measures were not being taken for security of election candidates despite repeated directives from ECP. He has directed them to ensure security of all candidates and peaceful atmosphere during polling.
Ikramullah Gandapur had served as agriculture minister in the previous KP government. He was elected on PTI ticket from PK-67 Dera Ismail Khan after the seat fell vacant following death of his brother Israrullah Gandapur, a former law minister, who was also killed in suicide attack in Oct 2013.
Our Bannu correspondent adds: In the assault on Akram Durrani, the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal candidate from NA-35 Bannu, the attackers opened fire on his bullet-proof car hitting the front view mirror of the vehicle.
According to witnesses, Mr Durrani’s motorcade was on way to Surani in connection with his election campaign when he was attacked near Mandori.
This was the second attack on Mr Durrani over the last 10 days. His motorcade was targeted in a roadside attack in the Bannu area on July 13. Four people lost their lives in the strike.
On the same day, the deadliest attack on the election campaign left 150 people, including Balochistan Awami Party candidate Nawabzada Siraj Raisani, dead and scores of others injured when a suicide bombing ripped through a gathering in Mastung, Balochistan.
On July 10, Awami National Party candidate Haroon Bilour was among 22 people who lost their lives in a suicide blast at a corner meeting in the Yakatoot area of Peshawar.
Published in Dawn, July 23rd, 2018