Prominent politicians were among mourners paying their last respects amid tight security to Pakistani provincial minister Bashir Bilour, who was killed in a suicide attack claimed by the Taliban.
With helicopters hovering overhead, Interior Minister Rehman Malik and local leaders joined hundreds of members of Bilour’s Awami National Party (ANP), which governs the province, at a sports stadium on Sunday for a funeral prayer.
Bilour, senior minister of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, was killed along with eight other people when the suicide bomber struck at a political meeting in the provincial capital Peshawar on Saturday.
The killing of the 69-year-old, an outspoken critic of the Pakistani Taliban, happened in a city on the frontline of the country’s fight against homegrown militancy which is frequently hit by gun and bomb attacks.
Security gates were set up at the entrance of the stadium in Peshawar and people were subjected to body searches. Authorities had installed jamming equipment to block mobile phone signals, which can be used to trigger bombs.
|Kamal Hyder reports on aftermath of Saturday’s attack|
Draped in a Pakistani flag, Bilour’s coffin was brought from his brother’s residence in an ambulance which later drove to the city’s graveyard where he was buried near his mother’s grave.
“Bilour was a sober, seasoned and brave politician. His death has created a vacuum in provincial politics,” Anwar Saifullah, of the Pakistan People’s Party, told the AFP news agency after attending the funeral.
The Pakistan People’s Party leads a national coalition government in Islamabad, which includes the secular ANP.
Amir Muqam, a senior figure in opposition party the Pakistan Muslim League-N, said: “Bilour was a courageous politician – the ANP has suffered a big loss in Peshawar.”
Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf declared a day of national mourning in Bilour’s honour on Sunday and flags flew at half-mast. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government announced three days of mourning.
Bilour, the number two to the chief minister of the province, had been in politics for 40 years.
In Saturday’s attack, around 100 people – including the provincial leadership of the ANP – had gathered at the meeting when the bomber struck.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) said they targeted Bilour in revenge for the death of one of their elders.