Nation mourns as death toll from Mastung blast rises to 131

Balochistan govt has announced two-day mourning after 128 people, including BAP candidate Siraj Raisani, were martyred in a suicide attack on Friday


QUETTA: The interim government has announced one-day mourning nationwide on Sunday as the death toll from a suicide blast at a political gathering in Mastung rose to 131, in one of the deadliest attacks in the country's history.

The blast on Friday resulted in martyrdom of 128 people, including Balochistan Awami Party candidate Nawab Siraj Raisani. Three out of more than 150 injured persons succumbed to their wounds on Saturday.

Caretaker Prime Minister Justice (retd) Nasirul Mulk directed the Ministry of Interior to issue a notification declaring Sunday a day of mourning to pay respect to lives lost in the recent spate of terror attacks in the country. 

The Balochistan government earlier today announced two-day mourning in the province following the deadly attack, in which Nawabzada Siraj Raisani, who was running for a provincial seat with the newly-formed local Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), was also martyred. 

Authorities said the suicide bomber detonated in the middle of a compound where the political meeting was taking place, in Mastung's Darengarh area. The blast was the latest in a string of attacks that have spurred fears of violence ahead of the general election on July 25, and came hours after four people were killed and 39 injured in a bomb blast targetting a JUI-F convoy in Bannu on Friday.

The national flag is at half-mast at all public buildings in the province. The BAP has also cancelled its election rally in Quetta today in memory of the deceased. 

The Pakistan Bar Council has announced two-day mourning and is boycotting all court proceedings today in condemnation of the tragedy. 

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has cancelled its rally scheduled for July 17 in Quetta, while the Pakistan Peoples Party has called off its rally in Batkhela today.

Levies personnel said on Saturday that evidence is being collected from the site of the attack, which has been secured by the forensics team. A case would be registered against the attack once all necessary proceedings have been conducted. 

The authorities will take assistance from the Punjab Forensics Laboratory to probe the attack, the levies officials added.

Siraj Raisani laid to rest in Mastung

Nawab Siraj Raisani was laid to rest in his ancestral graveyard in Kanak area of Mastung district in Balochistan late Saturday.

The martyr was buried near the graves of his father Nawab Ghaus Baksh Raisani and his son Mir Haqmal Raisani.

Funeral prayers for the martyred Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) candidate were offered in Quetta earlier the day.

Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Commander of Southern Command LT General Asim Saleem Bajwa attended the funeral prayers.

Inspector General of Frontier Corps (FC) Major General Nadeem Anjum, caretaker Balochistan chief minister Alauddin Marri, provincial ministers, chief secretary and members of civil bureaucracy attended the prayers. 

Nawab Aslam Raisani, Nawabzada Lashkari Raisani and other elders, along with general public also attended the prayers.

Raisani was recently elected as the chairperson of Balochistan Muttahida Mahaz and merged his party with the Balochistan Awami Party on June 3. He was scheduled to contest for PP-35 (Mastung).

The deceased had lost his son Akmal Raisani in a bomb blast at Mastung in July 2011. 

The Mastung attack was the most lethal since Taliban militants assaulted Peshawar’s Army Public School in 2014, killing over 150 people, mostly children, and one of the deadliest in the country´s long struggle with terrorism.

On Tuesday, a bomb targeted a rally by the Awami National Party (ANP) in Peshawar, martyring local ANP leader Haroon Bilour along with 21 others. Thousands flocked to his funeral the next day.

The military has warned of security threats in the run-up to the election on July 25, and said it will deploy more than 370,000 soldiers on polling day.

Politicians, countries condemn blasts 

The fresh spate of violence in Pakistan sparked strong condemnations from various quarters in the country and worldwide. 

Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa expressed sorrow over the loss of innocent lives and vowed that attempts of inimical forces to derail important democratic activity shall not succeed.

"Devastated by continued attacks on innocent Pakistanis," tweeted PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. 

PTI chief Imran Khan said he would be flying over to Mastung on the first opportunity.

Senate opposition leader Sherry Rehman lamented that Siraj Raisani was not provided adequate security. "Who will answer for pulling their security?" she questioned. 

The United States condemned the latest wave of terrorism in Pakistan, dubbing the attacks as “cowardly attempts to deprive the Pakistani people of their democratic rights.”

“The United States strongly condemns this week’s attacks on political candidates and their supporters in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces of Pakistan. These attacks are cowardly attempts to deprive the Pakistani people of their democratic rights,” US Department of State spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement.

“We grieve with those mourning the victims, and hope for a rapid recovery of those injured. We will continue to stand with the people of Pakistan and the broader South Asia region in their fight against terrorism,” the statement added. 

The European Union condemned the deadly blast, and urged for swift justice for the victims.

The British High Commission in Pakistan also issued a condemnation against the terrorist attack. "A terrible day. We join our Pakistani friends in our thoughts for the victims of these cowardly attacks and in condemning their perpetrators. No one can be allowed to thwart the country’s democratic process. #Mastung #Bannu," High Commissioner Thomas Drew tweeted.