Islamabad, Feb.17: The death toll in the suicide bomb blast in Parachinar has risen to 42. Over 100 people have been injured in the incident that took place at an election office of the Pakistan People's Party-backed independent candidate.
Official sources, however, put the death toll at 37 and the injured toll at 93. Independent candidate Dr. Syed Riaz Hussain Shah, who is contesting the election from National Assembly seat number 37, was not present in the election office at the time of the bombing. The blast was so powerful that it destroyed six other vehicles and eight nearby shops, besides the election office.
The News quoted eyewitnesses as saying that the suicide attacker with a long beard was driving a car with posters of a rival candidate pasted on it. Hospital sources said they had received 24 bodies. Thirteen others succumbed to their injuries at the ill-equipped District Headquarters Hospital, Parachinar.
The death toll is feared to rise as some of the injured are stated to be in critical condition at the hospital.
Dr Shah told The News that he had heard the explosion. He complained that there were no proper facilities for the burn patients at the local hospital. He requested the government to airlift the critically injured for better health facilities to other areas.
Independent observers were prompt to link the incident with military operation in Darra Adamkhel, which was launched after the militants commandeered four truckloads of military ammunition.
President Pervez Musharraf and Caretaker Prime Minister Muhammadmian Soomro have strongly condemned the incident, saying such events would not deter the government from holding the February 18 elections.
The two leaders termed the blast as an attempt to sabotage the ongoing democratic process.
The president and the prime minister expressed their condolences on the loss of innocent lives in the blast and directed the authorities to provide the injured with the best medical care.
The law enforcing agencies have also been directed to tighten the security and ensure the safety of voters and candidates, he added.
The prime minister said the caretaker government was committed to holding the elections on schedule.
Interior Ministry spokesman Brigadier (retired) Javed Iqbal Cheema strongly condemned the blast, which has claimed several precious lives.
While talking to a private channel, he said terrorists wanted to derail and disturb the ongoing process of the general elections.