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Peshawar blast death toll rises to 21 as condolences pour in

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RAWALPINDI: The death toll of the Peshawar suicide blast that killed senior Awami National Party (ANP) leader Haroon Bilour on Tuesday rose to 21 as condolences continued to pour in on Wednesday.

The blast has left more than 66 people injured, which are seeking treatment at Lady Reading Hospital.

Following the attack, the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) issued a statement claiming responsibility for the attack against Haroon Bilour. Furthermore, TTP spokesman Muhammad Khurasani accused ANP of being “anti-Islam”. Whereas, its leaders, especially the late Bashir Bilour was held responsible for arrest, imprisonment and killing of TTP militants.

Peshawar Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Qazi Jameel said that nearly 8 kilogrammes of TNT explosives were used in the blast. After collecting evidence from the site, police initiated an investigation into the incident.

Moreover, the police formed a high-level team to probe the suicide blast. The seven-member team, constituted by KP IG Mohammad Tahir under the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD), has been directed to submit a detailed report of the attack within seven days.

The security personnel were further informed to beef up the security within the province. Law enforcement agencies conducted raids across the city to arrest those involved in the suicide attack, however, the police has yet to announce an arrest.

A statement released by the KP police stated, “Nine units police and Quick Reaction Force (QRF) each have been deployed at all entry and exit points of the city.”

Earlier in the day, Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa expressed grief and condemned the suicide blast.

Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Major General Asif Ghafoor tweeted that COAS Gen Bajwa said that “we are fighting against nexus of inimical forces which aren’t willing to absorb a peaceful and stable Pakistan”.

Furthermore, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has decided to halt all electioneering in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Punjab following the attack. It was further reported that the party believes that ‘the suicide attack was an attempt to give clear ground to PTI’.

Earlier, the PPP chairman had condemned the attack and had said that “the terror attack on pro-democracy individuals is a conspiracy”.

“The nation should be aware of the fact as to what do terrorists wish,” the PPP chairman added.

On Tuesday, caretaker Prime Minister Nasirul Mulk, various political parties leaders and other prominent names had denounced the attack on ANP corner meeting.

Condemning the terrorist attack, Chief Election Commissioner Sardar Muhammad Raza had said that this was a “conspiracy against transparent elections”. He had termed it a “weakness of security institutions”.

Moreover, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan had expressed sorrow over the deaths of Haroon Bilour and other ANP workers. In his message on Twitter, he had said, “Sad to learn of Haroon Bilour and other ANP workers deaths and strongly condemn the terrorist attack at the ANP corner meeting in Peshawar.”

The PTI chief had called for the provision of security to all political parties and their candidates during their election campaigns.

In addition, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif had expressed great grief over the deaths in the Peshawar explosion. He had said, “Terrorists were trying to wrap up the democratic set-up in the country and will not succeed in their evil designs.”

PML-N leader Shehbaz Sharif had said he was “grieved to learn about the Shahadat of Haroon Bilour”, adding that he “strongly condemned this barbaric act of terrorism”.

He had further added that Bilour family has suffered the worst terrorist violence & rendered sacrifices for Pakistan.

“Basheer Bilour Shaheed was a brave leader who was martyred 6 years ago. Son of Haroon Bilour is reported to be critically injured along with others. Pray for his & others’ early recovery,” the former CM Punjab had added.

Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) chief Mustafa Kamal had said that “those who had their hands coloured with the blood of innocents, did not deserve to be considered as humans”.

ANP leader Mian Iftikhar Hussain had said that the government had failed to provide security to the party.

“Perhaps someone wishes to sabotage the elections … wants to push the ANP out of the electoral race,” he had said. However, the “ANP will fully participate in the elections”, he had added.

ECP to postpone elections in PK-78:

Meanwhile, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP)  postponed general elections in the PK-78 constituency, adding that they will now be held with the by-polls.

The ANP leader was a candidate was for the PK-78 constituency who was addressing a corner meeting in Peshawar on Tuesday night when the blast occurred.

Having said that, ANP President Asfandyar Wali Khan, while speaking to media remarked that the party will continue to campaign for the upcoming polls.

“The party will resume campaigning after a three-day peaceful protest, as we have to contest elections and win now.” He also said, “What we are dealing with are terrorists, who know all about us but we don’t know about them.”

“Instead of attacking us from the back, our rivals should go head-to-head against us,” Asfandyar shared.

Earlier on July 10, Information Minister Barrister Ali Zafar stated that the general elections will be held as per the schedule.

He upheld that it is the constitutional responsibility of the caretaker government to cooperate with the ECP for the smooth conduct of elections.

PTI announces day of mourning in KP

Separately, the PTI has announced a day of mourning as it suspended its election campaign in the province for a day following the martyrdom of Haroon Bilour and other party worker’s.

PTI spokesman Fawad Chaudhry said, “We are suspending our election activities in KP for today.”

“The party flag will be at half-mast to mourn the deceased,” he said, adding that the blast was a ‘barbaric act’.

The assassination of Haroon and other ANP leaders caused a huge unrest in the province and the country. Haroon was ANP’s candidate for the PK-78 constituency of Peshawar, was the son of Bashir Ahmed Bilour, a senior ANP figure who was martyred in a suicide blast in Peshawar in 2012.

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