Death toll from elections-related violence: 92.
A bomb tore through an election rally in Pakistan’s federally-administered Kurram tribal agency on Monday killing at least 23 people and wounding dozens others.
The explosion targeted a rally for the rightwing Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazl), a religious party that was for the better part of the last five years a partner in the outgoing coalition federal government led by the Pakistan Peoples Party.
But the attack was apparently not aimed at the JUIF. According to a Taliban spokesman, it was meant to kill Munir Orakzai, the party’s candidate. “Munir Orakzai was our target. He has spilt the blood of the tribal people, was a part of the government, and is now taking shelter in the cover of JUIF. It doesn’t mean that it will make him safe,” said Ihsanullah Ihsan. “He will remain our target.”
Riaz Khan, the top administrative official in Kurram, said the bomb had been planted inside the building where Orakzai, who is running for the National Assembly, was addressing supporters.
This is the first time in Pakistan’s history that political parties are openly campaigning in the federally-administered tribal areas following the Election Commission of Pakistan’s decision to include the seven tribal agencies under the Political Parties Act, 1962.
The JUIF, which is exploring an alliance with the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), could form the next provincial government in war-torn Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
Maulana Fazlur Rehman, chief of the JUIF, recently issued a fatwa against Imran Khan, whose Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party is also strong in the province, forbidding voters to cast their ballots in favor of someone in thrall to the Jewish lobby. Rehman declared Khan a non-Muslim, and Khan returned the favor. Rehman is widely considered an opportunistic politician, even by Pakistan’s lowly standards, and had urged the U.S. ambassador to Islamabad during the last elections to help him become prime minister.
The attack brings to 92 the number of people killed in attacks targeting politicians and political parties since April 11, according to an AFP tally. The Taliban have explicitly threatened the PPP, Muttahida Qaumi Movement, and Awami National Party. They have declared democracy un-Islamic. This is the first attack on a JUIF candidate since campaigning started, and it follows similar recent attacks on Khan’s party candidates. So far, the Taliban have spared PMLN, Jamaat-e-Islami, and Pakistan Muslim League led by former prime minister Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain.