News / Asia

Bomb at Pakistan Islamist Party Rally Kills 20

Policemen stand guard near supporters of the Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) party during an election campaign rally in Islamabad, May 5, 2013.
Policemen stand guard near supporters of the Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) party during an election campaign rally in Islamabad, May 5, 2013.
Ayaz Gul
A powerful bomb has ripped through an election rally in Pakistan, killing at least 20 people and wounding dozens more. Taliban extremists have claimed responsibility.  Militants have stepped up attacks on election-related events as the country prepares to hold national polls on May 11.

Local officials told reporters the deadly suicide attack occurred in the northwestern Kurram tribal district and it targeted a campaign rally of a religious party known as Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F).

The bomb reportedly went off near the stage shortly after candidates finished their speeches and were leaving the gathering. One of the candidates was identified as Munir Orakzai, a former member of the national parliament. His party spokesman, Jan Achakzai, said the senior politician survived the blast.

“He is fine. He is slightly injured but thanks to God he is safe. I strongly condemn this incident,” Achakzai said.

Taliban claim responsibility

A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, Ahsanullah Ahsan, claimed responsibility while speaking to VOA from an undisclosed location. He said Orakzai was the target of the attack because of his past association with the country’s secular political parties.

This is not the first time leaders linked to the JUI-F party have come under attack in Pakistan. Militants are blamed for at least two failed assassination attempts against the party chief, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, because of his short-lived political alliance with the previous Pakistani government that was a coalition of mostly secular parties. Most election-related attacks have targeted these political parties, and the violence has killed more than 90 people since campaigning started in April for Saturday’s national vote.

Independent observers like Mudassir Rizvi of the Free and Fair Election Network, a non-governmental watchdog, say the rising attacks on candidates and political activists are threatening the integrity of the polls.

“One of the major impacts that we are foreseeing is going to be the low turnout, especially if attacks of such type take place in the morning of the election day that will adversely affect expectations of a higher turnout this time,” said Rizvi.

The upcoming election will be the first time Pakistan will see a transfer of power between democratically elected governments through the ballot box. The military has ruled the country through coups or through its supporters for half of Pakistan’s existence, preventing democracy from taking roots.

You May Like

India PM Modi's Party Distances Itself From Religious Conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid