Pakistan secular party defiant after its leader killed in blast

Awami National Party vows to speak against armed groups day after its leader Haroon Bilour was killed in suicide attack.

Pakistan’s Awami National Party (ANP) on Wednesday vowed to fight against armed groups after its senior leader Haroon Bilour was killed in a suicide attack a day ago in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

The attack on Tuesday at an election campaign event organised by the ANP also killed at least 20 people. Their funerals were held in the KPK provincial capital Peshawar on Wednesday.

The Pakistan Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

Bilour was a provincial assembly candidate for the July 25 general elections. His father, Bashir Bilour, also a prominent ANP politician, was killed by a suicide bomber in 2012.

“We want peace on our soil and will stand with our ‎people,” said senior party leader Mian Iftikhar Hussain, who lost his only son in a armed attack eight years ago.

“One thing is clear: We will stand in the field against the terrorists,” he told Reuters news agency.

The ANP’s insistence that Pakistan should have a secular government instead of rule by Islamic law has made it a target for the Pakistan Taliban.

At elections on July 25, the party is setting its sights on winning a few National Assembly seats and possibly more in the provincial assembly.

Success would mean a modest comeback after the party won elections in 2008 to lead the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government for five years.

Lack of security

Pakistani senior politicians and officials on Wednesday condemned the suicide attack saying the government failed to provide proper security to the party.

Sardar Mohammad Raza Khan, the chief election commissioner, said the attack proved the security institutions were weak, according to Geo News, a local Pakistani news organisation.


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Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan also condemned the attack in a Tweet adding that “political parties and their candidates must be provided proper security during their election campaigns by the State”.

Former interior minister Rehman Malik said that despite a constant threat to the party by armed groups the KPK police “failed to provide security”.

Although violence has ebbed in Pakistan in recent years, following offensives by the army in rebel strongholds in the northwest, many fighters have escaped to Afghanistan, from where Pakistan says they launch attacks across the border.

“Our people are frightened … but we have faced it all,” said ANP party official Noorullah Achakzai.

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