JEDDAH/QUETTA: A bomb exploded next to a convoy of the deputy chairman of the Pakistan Senate on Friday in the violence-plagued province of Baluchistan, killing 27 people, officials said.
Daesh claimed responsibility for the bombing. The group’s Amaq news agency said a bomber wearing an explosive vest carried out the attack, which was condemned by a former local Daesh affiliate.
At least 35 people were wounded in the blast near the town of Mastung, 50 km from the provincial capital of Quetta. Television footage showed a vehicle mangled by the blast.
Sen. Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, the deputy chairman of the upper house of Parliament, told Reuters minutes after the explosion he believed he was the target and he had sustained minor injuries.
“There are many casualties as there were many people in the convoy,” he said by telephone. Haideri is a member of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), a political party that is part of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s coalition government.
Speaking to Arab News from Islamabad, Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, president of the JUI, condemned the attack on his party’s senior leader Haideri who is recuperating in a hospital.
Fazl-ur-Rehman said: “We are being punished because we are Pakistanis. Because we believe in the supremacy of our constitution. Because we are the defenders of democracy.”
He added: “These criminal acts will not dissuade us from the path of righteousness. The plotters of this attack are the enemies of Islam and the enemies of Pakistan."
Fazl-ur-Rehman appealed to Pakistanis not to lose hope and to keep their morale high. “These dastardly acts should only be responded with the strength of unity in our ranks. This is the only way these criminals can be neutralized,” he said.
Fazl-ur-Rehman said Haideri had not received any death threats before the attack. He said the massive success of his party’s centenary celebrations last month had not gone down well with its enemies.
“Obviously, they could not digest the fact that millions of our supporters could come together in a show of solidarity and strength. The presence of nearly 5 million people at our celebrations was proof of the Pakistani religious establishment’s complete faith in, and solid support for, democracy and the constitution,” he said.
Fazl-ur-Rehman said he had spoken to Haideri by telephone. “By the grace of Allah, Maulana Haideri is out of danger, but he is extremely distressed and saddened at the loss of the precious lives of his friends and followers in the attack,” he said.
Ambassador condemns attack
In a statement to Arab News, Pakistan’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Khan Hasham bin Siddique, strongly condemned the attack and expressed deep grief at the loss of innocent lives.
“Such cowardly attacks would neither deter nor lower our resolve to root out terrorists from Pakistani soil. The armed forces, and other law enforcement agencies, with the support of the people, are determined to completely eliminate terrorism,” he said.
He said the terrorists and their abettors were on the run following successes achieved as a result of anti-terror operations such as Zarb-e-Azb and Raddul Fassad.
The ambassador said the economic progress in Pakistan, particularly in Baluchistan, would not be impeded by these sporadic incidents. “No one will be allowed to disturb peace in Pakistan,” the ambassador added.
The senator, who is being treated in hospital, was on his way back to Quetta after distributing graduation certificates to students from a madrassa, or religious academy.
Militant group Lashkar-e-Jangvi Al-Alami, which has jointly carried out attacks with Daesh in the past, including a bombing at a shrine in Baluchistan in November, condemned Friday’s suicide attack, spokesman Ali Bin Sufyan said.
Separatist militants in Baluchistan have waged a campaign against the central government for decades, demanding a greater share of the gas-rich province’s resources.
Taliban and other militants also operate in the province, which shares borders with Afghanistan and Iran. A US drone strike killed Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour last year in Baluchistan.
The province was rocked by a series of attacks late last year that claimed over 180 lives and raised concerns about a growing militant presence.
— with input from Reuters