Pakistan says elections will be held despite bombing


Islamabad : Pakistan’s interior minister said Sunday the crucial Feb 18 elections remain on track despite Saturday’s suicide bombing that killed at least 20 people at a campaign rally in the north-west.

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“We are going to beef up the security for the prominent political leaders and also give a larger role for law enforcement agencies,” Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz said.

“We have to have a good (situation) as we’re eight days away (from the elections). These elections are very important and they will be held on time,” he added.

He said Saturday’s attack, in Charsadda district of the volatile North-West Frontier Province during a rally by the nationalist Awami National Party (ANP), was likely the work of the same Islamic extremists who killed opposition leader Benazir Bhutto Dec 27 and hundreds of security forces around the country in the past year.

“I think this is the same group and the basic reason for this (attack) appears to be the disruption of the overall environment of the elections, which are just a week away,” Nawaz said. “Previously, this political party (ANP) had not been touched.”

The suicide bomber blew himself up when around 200 ANP party workers gathered at a compound in a small village in Charsadda. More than 40 people, including 10 children and an ANP candidate for provincial assembly, were injured in the explosion.

Pakistan has seen a surge in suicide attacks that killed around 750 people in 2007 and more than 270 till date in the current year.

In December, more than 50 people were killed in Charsadda when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a mosque where former interior minister Aftab Sherpao was among a crowd offering prayers during the Eid ul-Adha festival. Sherpao survived the bombing.

Authorities blame pro-Taliban militants from the country’s tribal belt near Afghanistan. The region is believed to be a safe haven for Al Qaeda terrorists and Taliban fighters who fled to the area after the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001.