Pakistan’s Senate deputy chairman today escaped an assassination attempt with injuries when a suicide bomber targeted his convoy, killing 25 people and wounding 35 others in the volatile south-western Balochistan province. The bomber targeted Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri when he came out of a mosque after addressing a gathering shortly after the Friday prayers in Mastung area of the province.
The area where the explosion took place is approximately 70 kilometres from provincial capital Quetta. District Health Officer in Mastung Sher Zaman said that 25 bodies have been shifted to two hospitals in Quetta. “More than 35 were also injured,” he added.
Earlier, Mastung Hospital Public Relation Officer Malik Jibran said over 35 injured were brought to the hospital. He said more than 15 injured were in critical condition.
Senior police officer Abdul Razzaq Cheema said Haideri was slightly injured and he has been shifted to the Combined Military Hospital in Quetta.
“I am alive, Allah has saved my life, it was a sudden blast, broken pieces of the windscreen hit me, I am injured but safe. The driver and other people sitting next to me were badly injured,” Haideri later told SAMAA TV.
“I am sorry for the death of innocent of people,” said Haideri, who belongs to Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazal (JUI-F) of Maulana Fazlur Rehman. Most of the people killed were workers of his party.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Maulana Fazulr Rehman condemned the attack on Haideri and said today’s attack was not the first on the party.
“Many of our dear companions have been martyred [in this attack],” he said further, adding that, “We have to continue to work for this country and the stability of Islam.”
District Police Officer Muhammad Ghazanfar said that initial evidence suggests it was a suicide attack. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif strongly condemned the attack directed the relevant authorities to ensure the best medical treatment for the injured.
Chairman Senate Raza Rabbani and Interior Minister Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan also condemned the attack.
Rabbani said that it was suicide attack which targeted Haideri. “I have talked to chief secretary of Balochistan and asked him to airlift Haideri to Quetta,” he said.
TV footage showed Haideri’s vehicle was badly damaged. His driver was killed in the attack.
The District Police Officer Mastung, Ghazanfar Ali, said Haideri escaped as he was not sitting in the car when the blast took place.
“It could be a suicide bomb attack but it is too early to say for sure,” he said.
Balochistan government spokesman Anwarul Haq Kakar said it was too early to say anything about the nature of the attack. “Probe has been launched to determine the nature of the bombing,” he added.
Balochistan has been hit hard by attacks from terrorists and separatists in recent years and Mastung has seen a lot of unrest despite constant security operations in the area.