At least 40 people have been killed and over 150 injured in a bomb blast in Pakistan’s north-western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province that targeted a political party gathering, police said.
Saddened to learn of the blast in Bajaur, which took over 40 precious lives while injuring 150 other. My condolences and thoughts go to the families of the victims.
The rise in terror incidents across Pakistan particularly in KP, calls for an urgent need to reconsider our…
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) July 30, 2023
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack in the Bajaur district, bordering Afghanistan, which targeted a political convention by the conservative Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), a government coalition partner, ahead of elections later this year.
#Bajuar blast- seriously injured people of Bajaur explosion are being shifted to Peshawar in four military helicopters. A state of emergency is declared in the hospitals in Bajuar, Dir Lower & Peshawar. Acc to Bajaur police,40 people were killed & 130 injured in JUI-F convention. pic.twitter.com/AioqmRay45
— Mushtaq Yusufzai (@MYusufzai) July 30, 2023
More than 500 supporters were gathered in the event under the tent when the blast occurred on Sunday afternoon.
Footage of the site after the blast showed panic-stricken people gathering as ambulances arrived to move the injured to hospitals. Afterwards, a large police contingent cordoned off the area.
KP caretaker Information Minister Firoz Shah said hospitals across Bajaur and neighbouring areas had been put on high alert.
— Pashtana Malala (@PashtanaMalala) July 30, 2023
“We are trying to move critical patients to Peshawar and other hospitals through helicopters,” he said.
“Our utmost priority right now is to provide medical treatment to the injured. The blast site has been cordoned off. Pakistan Army and other institutions are assisting us in the operation,” Jamal added.
The district health officer Dr Muhammad Faisaltold the Guardian that “40 dead bodies and 150 injured were brought to District Headquarters hospital in Bajaur.
ایک انسان کا قتل پوری انسانیت کا قتل ہے
— Muhammad Tayyab (@BeterPak) July 30, 2023
“The death toll could rise further”, he said, adding that 20 injured people were in critical condition. Some were moved by helicopter to Peshawar hospitals.
A powerful explosion happened when the JUI-F leaders were addressing the gathering. Maulana Ziaullah Jan, a key JUI-F leader of the Khar area, was also killed in the blast.
Political gatherings and meetings are being held across the country to mobilize supporters for the coming general elections, due in October. Pakistan’s government is due to dissolve in the next few weeks and political parties have started preparing the campaigns.
— Ahsan Khan🇵🇰🇵🇸 (@ITisAhsanKhan) July 30, 2023
“We condemn these brutal attacks on our workers and leadership as general elections in Pakistan are approaching. The militants are creating fear and started targeting political gatherings,” Kamran Murtaza, a JUI-F senator told the Guardian.
“We are against this militancy and there is fear of more attacks on the political gatherings so our political party could not fully campaign for this year’s elections,” added Murtaza.
— DrVinushaReddy (@vinushareddyb) July 30, 2023
The JUI-F party is headed by the Islamist cleric Fazlur Rehman, who initiated his political career as a firebrand hardliner but has softened his political image in recent years to make alliances with secular parties.
There has been a sharp rise in attacks in Pakistan since the Taliban returned to power in neighbouring Afghanistan in 2021. Afghanistan’s Taliban government condemned Sunday’s blast in a statement by their spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid.
Visuals of injured people being shifted to the hospital
— News Globe Official (@NewsGlobePK) July 30, 2023
Pakistan’s military says militants are operating from the safe havens in neighbouring Afghanistan and has threatened to an “effective response” in the wake of the recent attacks in the country.
Pakistan’s local Taliban group, the Tehreek–e-Taliban Pakistan, known as TTP, has increased its attacks on security officials, including army and the police officers.
In January, a TTP suicide bomber blew himself up in a mosque inside a police compound in the north-western city of Peshawar, killing more than 80 officers.
In a statement issued later in the evening, KP caretaker Chief Minister Azam Khan sought a detailed report on the blast from police and directed authorities to provide the best medical treatment to the injured.
Governor Ali also said in a statement that a helicopter had been sent to Bajaur for the transfer of wounded people.
JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, in a statement issued by the party’s media cell, expressed grief over the incident. He sought an inquiry into the attack from Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and the KP government.
“May Allah raise the ranks of martyrs,” Fazl said and prayed for the speedy recovery of the injured.
He also appealed to JUI-F workers to immediately reach hospitals and provide blood donations.
جمعیت علماء اسلام کے سربراہ مولانا فضل الرحمان کا باجوڑ حملے میں جےیوآئی کے ورکر کنونشن کے دوران دھماکے پر شدید دکھ اور افسوس کا اظہار
مولانا فضل الرحمان کا وزیراعظم اور وزیراعلی کے پی کے سے افسوس ناک واقعہ کی انکوائری کا مطالبہ
اللہ تعالی شہداء کے درجات بلند فرمائے مولانا…
— Jamiat Ulama-e-Islam Pakistan (@juipakofficial) July 30, 2023
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif strongly condemned the blast at the JUI-F convention. He said terrorists targeted those who advocated the cause of Islam, the Holy Quran and Pakistan.
“Terrorists are enemies of Pakistan and they will be eliminated,” he asserted in a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office, adding that elements involved in the incident would be meted out strict punishment.
He also sought a report of the incident from Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah and the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Meanwhile, President Arif Alvi prayed for eternal peace for the departed souls and commiserated with the bereaved families. He also wished speedy recovery for the injured and emphasised the timely provision of medical assistance to them.
In a tweet, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah vowed to bring the perpetrators of today’s attack to justice. “The cowardly acts of terrorists cannot dampen our spirits.”
Earlier, JUI-F leader Hafiz Hamdullah said he was supposed to attend the convention today but could not because of some personal commitments.
“I strongly condemn the blast and want to give a message to the people behind it that this is not jihad but terrorism,” the JUI-F leader said while speaking to Geo News.
He asserted that today’s incident was an attack on humanity and Bajaur.
Hamdullah demanded that the blast should be probed, recalling that this was not the first that the JUI-F had been targetted. “This has happened before […] our workers have been targetted. We raised our voice over this in the Parliament but no action was taken.”
He also extended his condolences to grieving families and urged the provincial government to provide the best medical facilities to the injured.
In a statement on the PPP Media Cell, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari condemned the blast and extended condolences to the bereaved.
“The federal and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments should bring the patrons of terrorists to justice,” he said, stressing that terrorists and their planners should be eliminated.
Former president Asif Ali Zardari said terrorists were everyone’s enemies. “Like Swat, the entire country needs to be cleansed of the nurseries of terrorism,” he stated.
سابق صدر آصف علی زرداری کی باجوڑ میں جے یو آئی ف کے کنونشن میں بم دھماکے کی مذمت
آصف علی زرداری کا جے یو آئی ف کے کارکنوں کی شہادت پر مولانا فضل الرحمن سے اظہار تعزیت
دہشت گرد سب کے دشمن کے ہیں۔ آصف علی زرداری
سوات کی طرح پورے ملک کو دہشتگردی کی نرسریوں سے پاک کرنے کی…
— PPP (@MediaCellPPP) July 30, 2023
Jamaat-e-Islami Senator Mushtaq Ahmed also condemned the blast and extended his condolences over the deaths.
“The federal and provincial governments, forces, intelligence agencies and civil administration have completely failed to protect the people,” he tweeted.
“The return of terrorism proves that the government’s security plan/policy has failed and tribal districts of KP are in the middle of this fire,” the JI senator said and demanded that a joint in-camera session of the Parliament should be called to address the issue of rising terrorism.
Rise in terrorism
Bajaur is one of seven remote districts bordering Afghanistan in a region that was once a focal point in the global war on terror.
Over the past few months, the law and order situation in Pakistan has worsened, with terrorist groups executing attacks with near impunity across the country.
Since the talks with the TTP broke down in November, the militant group has intensified its attacks, particularly targeting the police in KP and areas bordering Afghanistan. Insurgents in Balochistan have also stepped up their violent activities and formalised a nexus with the outlawed TTP.
A report released this month by think tank Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies said the first half of the current year witnessed a steady and alarming rise in terror and suicide attacks, claiming the lives of 389 people across the country.
Last week, a policeman was martyred in a “suicide blast” inside a mosque in the Jamrud area of KP’s Khyber district.
In January, a suicide bomber linked to TTP blew himself up in a mosque inside a police compound in the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing more than 80 officers.
The militant assaults have been focused on regions abutting Afghanistan, and Islamabad alleges some are being planned on Afghan soil — a charge Kabul denies.
Earlier this month, the armed forces of Pakistan expressed “serious concerns on the safe havens and liberty of action available to” the banned TTP in Afghanistan.
“The involvement of Afghan nationals in acts of terrorism in Pakistan is another important concern that needs to be addressed. Such attacks are intolerable and would elicit an effective response from the security forces of Pakistan,” it said.