ANP’s Haroon Bilour, 19 others martyred in Peshawar blast

Suicide bomber kills ANP candidate, supporters at election rally

A senior Pakistan politician was among at least 13 people killed in a suicide blast at an election rally in Peshawar on Tuesday night, according to local media reports.

Pakistan will hold national and provincial elections on July 25.

Punjab chief secretary was informed that days before he was killed in a drone attack in Afghanistan, TTP commander Mullah Fazalullah had issued directives to increase terrorist activities in Pakistan - to target the PPP and ANP during the general elections, in addition to carrying out terrorist attacks in various parts of Pakistan.

The bomber blew himself up near Haroon Bilour during fireworks, police said.

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Terming it the "peak of terrorism", ANP leader Mian Iftikhar Hussain said the attack is aimed at derailing democratic system in the country and a conspiracy to delay upcoming general elections.

It is pertinent to note here that Bilour's father, Bashir Ahmed Bilour, too had lost his life in a 2012 suicide bomb explosion in the city's Qissa Khwani bazar. At least six people, wounded during the blast, were said to be in critical condition at Peshawar's Lady Reading Hospital.

Chief Election Commissioner Raza Khan said the attack on an electoral candidate, despite the ECP's directions to provide security, was a result of the security institutions' negligence.

But many militants have escaped into neighbouring Afghanistan, from where Islamabad says they launch attacks back into Pakistan.

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An AFP reporter saw human remains, shoes, broken chairs, and caps littered at the scene. "The last thing I saw was a big ball of fire".

Another party worker, Yaseen Khan, said a deafening explosion rocked the compound as Haroon Bilour shook hands with supporters.

Following the incident, the Election Commission of Pakistan postponed the polls in PK-78 constituency. More than 380,000 personnel will be deployed for the elections, according to Major General Asif Ghafoor, the military spokesperson. But ANP leaders have vowed to continue their campaign this year despite the bombing in Peshawar.

Peshawar city sits on the edge of a region bordering Afghanistan that has always been home to extremists. These groups have often targeted political parties and leaders who oppose their views. Officials have said that while the threat remains, terrorists have been significantly weakened because of military operations in recent years.

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Militant organisations have claimed responsibility for attacks on several prominent political figures, including the assassination of former PM Benazir Bhutto in 2007.

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