SADDA/HANGU, (The News): The death toll of a blast at the election rally of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) candidates in the central Kurram Agency on Monday has risen to 24, Geo News reported said.
The political agent initially stated that 15 people were killed and 36 others injured in the blast and that the JUI-F candidates remained unhurt. However, later in the evening it became known that 24 people were killed and around 70 others injured in the blast.
Along with the local tribesmen, two bodyguards of the JUI-F candidate from NA-38, Munir Orakzai, and six of his close relatives were also injured in the blast at a Madrassa in Sewak village in Kurram tribal region.
There were conflicting reports about the nature of the explosion as some said a suicide bomber blew himself up when Munir Orakzai was about to leave the venue after delivering his speech. However, his family members insisted that unidentified people had planted an improvised explosive device (IED) in the seminary where the election rally had been organized.
Kurram Agency Political Agent Riaz Mahsud said that the blast was caused by an IED. He said JUI-F candidates from Kurram Agency, Munir Orakzai and Maulana Ainuddin Shakir, were addressing the gathering at the seminary in Sewak village in the Parachamkani area when the remote-controlled explosive device went off. He added that 10 kilo explosives were used in the blast.
Dr Inayatullah Khan, the administrator of the Agency Headquarters Hospital in Sadda, said 20 bodies and 65 injured were brought to the hospital. He said some tribesmen took bodies of their relatives to their villages instead of bringing them to the hospital.
He said around 65 injured were still under treatment at the hospital in Sadda and some were in serious condition. He added that those in need of advanced treatment were shifted to hospitals in Hangu, Kohat and Peshawar.
Dr Inayatullah said a state of emergency was declared at the hospital after receiving the report about the blast and all the injured were provided free health services. Dr Abdul Qadir, the younger brother of JUI-F candidate Munir Orakzai, told Geo News that his brother didn’t suffer injury in the blast. He said most of the blast victims were taken to hospitals in Sadda and Parachinar.
The security forces reportedly arrived in the remote and mountainous Parachamkani area after the explosion and cordoned off the area. By then the local people had already launched rescue activities and shifted the injured to hospitals.
In-charge of the Agency Headquarters Hospital in Parachinar, Dr Sabir Hussain said that they had received 28 injured and 10 of them were in critical condition and were shifted to Peshawar.
JUI-F spokesman in Kurram Agency, Hafiz Sanaullah, said the explosion took place at 3:50pm when the party leaders had finished delivering speeches and were leaving the stage. Eyewitness said the bomb was planted near the stage to target the JUI-F leaders.
Meanwhile, the proscribed Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack on the JUI-F rally and said Munir Orakzai was the target. It added that the JUI-F party activists weren’t a target.
TTP spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan said they had been trying for long to locate and kill Munir Orakzai as he had remained an active member of the coalition government of the PPP, MQM and ANP.
TTP chief Hakimullah Mahsud had mentioned Munir Orakzai’s name in a videotape released in the past by his organisation. In the video, Hakimullah Masood is seen personally shooting dead former ISI official Col Ameer Sultan, commonly known as Col Imam, while accusing Munir Orakzai of selling the Arab fighters to the US.
Interestingly, talking to reporters after the blast, JUI-F candidate for NA-37 in Kurram Agency, Maulana Ainuddin Shakir claimed that the TTP was not behind the Monday’s blast at their rally.
He said the JUI-F leaders and workers were not on the hit-list of any militant outfit. He said their party leaders had not received threat from any group.
Maulana Ainuddin Shakir maintained the attack could be the result of personal enmity of Munir Orakzai or some feud among the local groups.
Agencies add: Reuters put the death toll at 25. According to eyewitnesses, the blast occurred near the stage when Munir Orakzai, the JUI-F candidate for NA-38, had just descended its stairs. He, however, luckily remained unhurt while his guard sustained critical injuries.
Since April, Taliban have killed more than 90 people in attacks on three major political parties, preventing many of their most prominent candidates from openly campaigning.
The Taliban have condemned the elections as un-Islamic and directly threatened the main parties in the outgoing coalition.
The Taliban have been blamed for killing thousands of Pakistanis in a domestic insurgency over the last six years.
Elections have been postponed in three constituencies, in Balochistan, Karachi and Hyderabad, where candidates have been killed.
President Asif Ali Zardari strongly condemned a bomb blast in Kurram Agency.
The president expressed his heartfelt sympathies with the bereaved families and directed the authorities concerned to ensure provision of the best possible medical care to the injured.