QUETTA: As the nation observed a day of mourning over recent terrorist attacks on election candidates in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa just a few days before the general elections, the caretaker prime minister, Senate chairman and political party heads arrived in the city on Sunday to condole the Mastung killings.
The death toll in the Mastung suicide bombing reached 149 on Sunday when officials found that some bodies had not been brought to any hospital. They were buried by their families soon after the blast, the officials said, adding that the death toll might increase further during a survey being conducted in nearby villages. “The death toll of Mastung carnage is now 149,” Mastung deputy commissioner Qaim Lashari confirmed to Dawn.
The national flag remained at half-mast on government buildings across the country to mourn the death of all those who lost their lives in terrorist attacks at Peshawar on July 10 and in Mastung and Bannu on July 13.
Mastung toll surges to 149; Shahbaz, Imran, Sanjrani visit Raisani family
Shortly after their arrival at Quetta on Sunday, caretaker PM Nasirul Mulk and Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani visited the Raisani family to condole the death of Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) candidate Nawabzada Siraj Raisani, who was targeted in the Mastung blast on Friday, and then visited the injured victims at the hospital.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz president Shahbaz Sharif and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan also condoled the death of Mr Raisani during their separate visits to Quetta. Expressing serious concern over the security situation in the country, both the party heads termed the Mastung incident a “national tragedy”. Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari cancelled a public meeting in Malakand on Sunday as a mark of solidarity with the victims of the attacks. While he met the Bilour family to condole the death of Awami National Party candidate in Peshawar blast, he is likely to visit Balochistan soon to condole the death of the BAP candidate.
The country has been in the grip of renewed attacks by terrorists who have targeted three election candidates in blasts, killing more than 170 people and injuring over 200 others.
The first major incident took place on July 10 when ANP candidate from Peshawar (PK-78) Haroon Bilour and 19 others were killed in an attack targeting the party’s election meeting. The banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which had also claimed responsibility for the killing of Mr Haroon’s father Bashir Bilour in 2012, said it had carried out the attack. Two days later, two more terrorist attacks took place targeting election candidates in Bannu and Mastung.
Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal candidate from Bannu (NA-35) Akram Khan Durrani survived the attack that killed four other people. Hours later, a powerful bomb blast targeted a meeting of Balochistan Awami Party candidate from Mastung (PB-35) Nawabzada Siraj Raisani, killing him with 127 others on the spot.
Meanwhile, PML-N chief Shahbaz Sharif and PTI chairman Imran Khan during their separate visits to Sarawan House in Quetta condoled with the family members of BAP candidate Siraj Raisani, who was the youngest brother of former Balochistan chief minister Nawab Aslam Raisani and former MNA Lashkari Raisani.
Talking to the media after the meeting, PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif termed the Mastung carnage a “national tragedy”. He said: “Every Pakistani is sad on the huge human loss.
“We are with the Raisani family and others who had lost their near and dear ones,” he added.
He supported Lashkari Raisani’s demand for formation of a truth commission to investigate the terrorist attack that the militant organisation Islamic State reportedly claimed to have carried out.
“Pakistan can’t make progress unless the terrorism is defeated,” Mr Sharif said.
He said it was responsibility of the caretaker government and the Election Commission to ensure holding of impartial elections.
Mr Sharif accused the Punjab government of supporting “one of our opponent political party” and said such actions would create doubts about impartially of the polls. He said “rigged elections” wouldn’t be in the country’s interest.
“Unfortunately, when the entire country is under severe grief, the PTI chief is still distracting people of Pakistan with his false speeches,” he said, adding that it was time to get united against terrorism instead of segregating the nation.
Earlier, PTI chairman Imran Khan told a news conference that abandoning election campaign would encourage terrorists as they would succeed in their nefarious designs to sabotage the upcoming elections.
Mr Khan paid rich tribute to late Siraj Raisani and termed him “a true and a brave Pakistani.” He said the purpose of his visit was to express solidarity with the people of Balochistan, Raisani family and with all those who lost their loved ones in the Mastung tragedy.
He said some quarters were asking the PTI and other political parties to stop their election campaign. “Our election campaign is continuing and will not be stopped across the country. Abandoning election campaign means to surrender before the terrorists and their encouragement,” he said.
Replying to a question, Mr Khan said the PTI had a comprehensive plan to deal with terrorism. “To get rid of terrorism, all the four provinces must be united and should be on one page,” he said. He deplored that the National Action Plan prepared with consensus of political parties had not been fully implemented in the country.
Meanwhile, an official handout issued from the PM Office said that the caretaker prime minister retired Justice Nasirul Mulk presided over a meeting to review the situation in the wake of Mastung blast. Senior civil and military officials, including Southern Command commander Lt-Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa, also attended the meeting.
The provincial chief secretary informed the meeting about the details of the Mastung incident and the arrangements being made for the upcoming general elections.
The prime minister directed the authorities concerned to take all possible steps to ensure security of election candidates and the public. “The prime minister underlined the need to take the political leadership on board regarding the security arrangements and to secure their cooperation “in order to avoid any untoward incident”, the official handout added.
Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2018