At least 133 people, including a top nationalist leader, were killed and more than 125 others got injured today in a powerful suicide blast and a targeted attack on separate election rallies in Pakistan, the deadliest in a series of assaults on candidates ahead of the July 25 polls.
Militants targeted a gathering of Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) leader Siraj Raisani in Mastung area in the troubled Balochistan province.
“Raisani succumbed to wounds while he was being shifted to Quetta,” District Police Officer Mohammad Ayub Achakzai said.
Raisani is the brother of former Chief Minister of Balochistan Nawab Aslam Raisani.
The Islamic State terror group has claimed responsibility for the attack that left 128 people dead, police officials said.
The outfit announced the claim through its Aamaq news agency without providing further details.
Local media confirmed the death toll, quoting provincial Home Minister Agha Umar Bangalzai.
“Initially the death toll was not high but many critically injured persons including Siraj Raisani passed away in hospitals,” Balochistan’s caretaker Health Minister Faiz Kakar said.
He said the death toll could rise further as 120 people have been wounded in the explosion.
Officials of the Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS) confirmed that it was a suicide blast. They said that around 16-20 kilogram of explosives were used in the attack.
Following the incident, an emergency was declared in Quetta hospitals, with additional medical staff summoned.
The attack came hours after a bomb hit a rally of Akram Khan Durrani of Mutahida Majlis Amal (MMA), an alliance of religious party, including Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazal (JUI-F) and Jamaat-e-Islami, in Bannu area of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
Five persons were killed and over 37 other injured, police said.
Durrani was unhurt in the attack. He later visited the injured in a hospital in Bannu and said that his vehicle was damaged in the attack.
Durrani, who is contesting in July 25 elections against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf chief Imran Khan, announced that he will continue campaign despite threats.
No group has claimed responsibility for the two attacks so far.
The twin attacks came as former prime minister Nawaz Sharif along with his daughter Maryam returned to the country to face arrest in a corruption case.
The law and order had suddenly deteriorated ahead of elections despite claims by the Government and security forces that terrorism has been wiped out of the country.
President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Nasirul Mulk also condemned the attack in separate statements.
On Monday, a suicide bomber killed Awami National Party (ANP) leader and candidate in the general elections, Haroon Bilour and 19 others after striking at a corner election meeting in Peshawar city.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on the ANP rally.
On July 7, seven people were injured when a convoy of a Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal came under attack in Bannu.
Conspiracy hatched at Pakistan High Commission against India on Kashmir: Asiya Andrabi to NIA
In a shocking revelation on the Kashmir terror funding by Pakistan, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Thursday said that during an investigation Dukhtaran-e-Millat Chief Asiya Andrabi claimed that conspiracy against India on the Kashmir issue used to take place in the Pakistan High Commission at New Delhi. She also alleged that several Kashmiri separatist leaders have close relationships with Pakistan and leaders including Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Syed Ali Shah Geelani used to visit the high commission on a regular basis.
During the questioning, Andrabi also disclosed that in 2015 when her mother passed away, the then Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had written a letter to her condoling the death of Andrabni’s mother. Even she had written him a letter saying that Pakistan wasn’t serious on the issue of Kashmir.
Andrani also said to the NIA that regular meetings or telephonic conversations on the Kashmir issue used to take place between Andrabi and Former ISI chief Hamid Gul, Jamaat ud dawa Chief Hafiz Saeed, Pakistani diplomat Abdul Basit and Pakistan Foreign Minister Sartaz Aziz.
Sindhu, Srikanth, Praneeth win; Prannoy ousted in World Championship
PV Sindhu and Kidambi Srikanth notched up contrasting wins to progress to the pre-quarterfinals but world no 11 H S Prannoy suffered a shock defeat to unheralded Brazilian Ygor Coelho to bow out of the World Championship here today.
Olympic silver medallist Sindhu, who had got a bye in the first round, opened her campaign with an easy 21-14 21-9 win over Indonesia’s Fitriani.
The 23-year-old Indian, who won the silver medal last year, will face Korean Sung Ji Hyun, a 2015 World Championship bronze medallist, in the next round.
Srikanth, seeded fifth, recovered from a slump during the hard-fought contest to see off Spain’s Pablo Abian 21-15 12-21 21-14 in a second-round match that lasted 62 minutes.
The 25-year-old Indian, who had clinched four titles last year, will lock horns with Malaysia’s Daren Liew, a former world no 10, who had won the 2012 French Open Super Series.
B Sai Praneeth also entered the next round after defeating Spain’s Lu s Enrique Penalver 21-18 21-11 to set up a meeting with Denmark’s Hans-Kristian Solberg Vittinghus.
However, Prannoy and Sameer Verma bowed out of the tournament.
Prannoy, seeded 11th, couldn’t hold on to the momentum after breezing through the opening game to eventually lose 21-8 16-21 15-21 to Coelho, ranked 39th in the world.
Later, Sameer failed to get across former two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan, losing 17-21 14-21 in a 45-minute match.
It also turned out to be a disastrous day for the Indian doubles pairs as all of them lost their respective matches to crash out of the prestigious tournament.
Commonwealth Games silver medallists Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty did all the hard work but couldn’t go the full distance, losing narrowly 18-21 21-15 16-21 to world no 8 Denmark pair of Kim Astrup and Anders Skaarup Rasmussen in men’s doubles.
Ashwini Ponnapa and N Sikki Reddy were no match for second seeded Japanese combination of Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota, going down 14-21 15-21 in the second round women’s doubles event.
National champions Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy waged a gallant battle before losing 24-22 13-21 16-21 to seventh seed Takuto Inoue and Yuki Kaneko of Japan in men’s doubles.
Sindhu dished out a dominating game and was always in control of the match. Her superior court coverage and accuracy in strokes made life difficult for the Indonesian.
In the opening game, Sindhu lead 11-7 at the break, before moving to 17-7 with six straight points. She eventually comfortably pocketed the opening game when Fitriani sent the shuttle long.
In the second game, Sindhu continued to surge ahead, moving from 4-5 behind to 8-3 before entering the interval with a 11-5 advantage.
The Indian didn’t give Fitriani any chance to make a comeback and quickly wrapped the match when the Indonesia found the net.
Srikanth erased a 2-4 and 6-8 deficit in the opening game before gaining upperhand with a 16-13 lead. He then reeled off four points to reach game points. Pablo tried to recover but the Indian quickly pocketed the opening game.
In the second game, Srikanth had opened up a 6-3 lead but Pablo rode on a six-point burst to move ahead.
The Indian made it 10-12 but the Spaniard registered seven straight points to enjoy a healthy lead to eventually roar back into contest.
In the decider, Pablo managed a slender 11-9 advantage at the break but Srikanth turned the tables and then surged ahead to shut the door on the Spaniard.
“I started off well but made too many mistakes in the second. I was trying too many things and couldn’t get going. May be the strategy I tried, I tried too many things and it didn’t come off and I have to talk to my coach about it,” Srikanth said.
“I should have avoided doing mistakes in the second game and I am concerned about that. The last 10 points, I got everything right. So hope to get things right in the next match,” he added.
After a forgettable outing, Prannoy said: “I was trying to do something in the second and third game but it wasn’t working. He was retrieving everything and my defence was bad today. I gave him a lot of chances for a free dribble and hit and that made him comfortable,” he said.
“I felt I was playing good in the first. The problem was the start of the second game was crucial and I gave him a lead. The lead gave him confidence and that was a big mistake.”
“I think it’s one match I need to forget as soon as possible and get back to work.
India hopes Pak will work for terror-free SA
India today said it desires a prosperous and progressive Pakistan, and hoped that the new Government in Islamabad will work constructively to build a safe, stable and secure South Asia free of terror and violence, in its first reaction on elections in that country.
Spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs Raveesh Kumar said India welcomed that the people of Pakistan have reposed their faith in democracy through general elections.
“India desires a prosperous and progressive Pakistan at peace with its neighbours,” he said.
“We hope that the new Government of Pakistan will work constructively to build a safe, stable, secure and developed South Asia free of terror and violence,” Kumar said.
Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has emerged as the single largest party in the elections held on July 25, winning 116 of the 270 seats.
Jailed former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) with 64 seats and former President Asif Ali Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) with 43 seats are placed at number two and three respectively.
Amid clear indications that his party was on course of wresting power, Khan on Thursday had said Pakistan was ready to improve its ties with India and his Government would like the leaders of the two sides to resolve all disputes, including the “core issue” of Kashmir, through talks.
“If they take one step towards us, we will take two, but at least (we) need a start,” he said.
Ties between India and Pakistan have nose-dived in the last few years over cross-border terrorism. Relations worsened after terror attacks by Pakistan-based groups on several military bases in India.
New Delhi has been maintaining that Pakistan must stop terror activities from its soil for any meaningful talks between the two countries to resolve the outstanding issues.
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