Peshawar — A suicide bomb ripped through a political rally in Pakistan on Tuesday night. 20 people were killed, and approximately 63 were wounded. Among the dead was the politician Haroon Bilour, 47, of the Awami National Party. The Taliban in Pakistan (Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan or TTP) have claimed responsibility for the attack.
The Pakistan general elections are coming up, scheduled to be held on July 25. Bilour was the party leader for the Awami National Party (ANP), and candidate for the provincial legislature. His father was killed in a similar way — in 2013, the same Taliban umbrella organization were violently attempting to quell the ANP, of which they killed hundreds. Bilour’s father, Bashir Bilour, was about to speak at a rally when he was killed by a suicide bomber alongside his personal secretary and seven others.
The Awami National Party is a Pashtun nationalist party (Pashtuns are considered ethnic Afghans), and their influence extends throughout the various parts of Pakistan that are inhabited by Pashtun people, particularly in the northwest. The party has pushed for a secular government, with some democratic socialist ideas as well as relatively consistent support for NATO involvement in Afghanistan next-door. This, among other things, has put them at odds with the Taliban for years.
Also, due to their Pashtun roots, they are a voice for the tribal peoples in northwestern Pakistan/southeastern Afghanistan — tribal peoples who do not recognize the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan (marked by the Durand Line) the way that the governments do.
It’s important to distinguish between the various Taliban elements. Stanford has called the TTP the “largest and deadliest militant umbrella organization in Pakistan,” and approximately half of the Taliban organizations throughout Pakistan fall under the purview of the TTP. They are close relatives of the Taliban fighting in Afghanistan, but their priorities are slightly different. They seek to “enforce Shariah law in Pakistan; to establish a unified front to combat U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan, and to conduct defensive jihad against Pakistani security forces. Ultimately, the group also seeks to overthrow the Pakistani government and establish an Islamic caliphate in Pakistan.”
The Afghan Taliban is what those in America are more familiar with — they call themselves the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA). They have sought and found refuge in Pakistan numerous times and continue to do so today, but their goals lie deeply rooted in the future of Afghanistan.
Featured image: People try to comfort a supporter of Pakistani politician Haroon Ahmed Bilour, a victim of a suicide bombing at an election rally, during his funeral in Peshawar, Pakistan, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. The Pakistani Taliban on Wednesday claimed responsibility for an overnight suicide bombing at a rally that killed Bilour, a secular politician, and 20 others two weeks before nationwide elections. | AP Photo/Muhammad Sajjad