Srinagar, 22 July :
A Pakistani candidate from the party of prime ministerial hopeful and former cricket star Imran Khan was killed in a suicide attack that wounded four others, a police official said, just days ahead of Wednesday’s general elections.
The attack in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa follows a spate of bombings at political rallies before the election, the most devastating of which was a suicide attack this month that killed 149 people.
Sunday’s attack targeted the vehicle of Ikramullah Gandapur, a candidate of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), for the provisional legislative assembly in the city of Dera Ismail Khan, two police officials told Reuters.
“Ikramullah Gandapur has been killed and we are conducting a post-mortem,” said police official Zahoor Afridi.
His guard and driver were killed in the attack, Dera Ismail Khan DPO Manzoor Afridi told reporters.
Gandapur served as the provincial agriculture minister in the PTI-led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government.
He was elected through a by-election on the Dera Ismail Khan PK-67 seat after it was vacated following the death of his brother Law Minister Israr-Ullah Gandapur in a suicide attack.
Video images from the scene showed three bleeding and unconscious passengers inside a badly damaged black sports utility vehicle.
In 2013, Gandapur’s brother, Israrullah, who was then the provincial law minister, was killed in a suicide attack on his home.
Around the same time that Gandapur came under attack, Jamiat-Ulema-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) leader Akram Khan Durrani, a former Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa chief minister, survived a second assassination attempt in less than 10 days.
Durrani was going to address a political convention when his vehicle was ambushed by unknown gunmen in his home district Bannu, bordering North Waziristan district.
The gunmen opened indiscriminate fire on Durrani’s vehicle from the frontal side. However, he remained unhurt in the attack.
Durrani is contesting for NA-35 under the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) banner against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan.
This is the third attack on election candidates in Bannu district and second on Durrani ahead of July 25 polling.
On July 13, an attack targeting JUI-F’s central general secretary killed four persons with wounded as many as 39. Durrani, however, remained unhurt in the attack.
On the same day, 149 people, including a top nationalist leader, were killed and over 200 others injured in a powerful suicide blast in Mastung area in the troubled Balochistan province.
As political parties step up campaigning, attacks across Pakistan have stoked fears of more violence in a country of 208 million where political rallies can draw tens of thousands of spectators.
There are two main contenders among the dozens of parties in the election fray: PTI and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, which aims to win a second term despite the jailing of its founder, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, for graft.