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Pakistan election candidate shot dead: police

04 may 2013, 13:48
0
©AFP
©AFP
A candidate running for parliament in next week's historic Pakistani election was shot dead on Friday along with his three-year-old son after praying in a mosque in Karachi, AFP reports citing police.

It is the first time that a national assembly candidate has been killed in Pakistan's election campaign. Campaigning has been marred by Taliban threats and attacks, which have killed 63 people since April 11, according to an AFP tally.

The May 11 polls for the national and regional assemblies mark the first time that a civilian government completes a full-term and hands over to another at the ballot box, in a country that has been ruled by the military for half its life.

Saddiq Zaman Khattak was a businessman and a candidate for the Awami National Party (ANP), the leading secular party in Pakistan's ethnic Pashtun northwest. A party leader said he had previously received threats.

"He was returning from a mosque after saying his Friday prayers with his three-year-old son when gunmen on a motorbike opened fire. Both were killed," police spokesman Imran Shaukat told AFP.

Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack and threatened further attacks on the ANP and its outgoing coalition partners, the Pakistan People's Party and MQM, the main party in Karachi.

"We have attacked him and we will continue such attacks in the future. ANP, People's Party and MQM are our targets," Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location.

Pakistan's interim Prime Minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso condemned the assassination and once again ordered security to be strengthened for candidates.

"Such incidents were aimed at disrupting the election process in the country. The federal government will take all steps necessary to check such incidents," his office said in a statement.

Karachi, a city of 18 million people, contributes 42 percent of Pakistan's GDP but is rife with politically and ethnically linked violence.

Friday's assassination brings to three the number of constituencies where the May 11 election will now be delayed because candidates have been killed.

A man standing for the secular MQM in the Sindh provincial assembly, of which Karachi is the capital, was shot dead in the city of Hyderabad on April 11.

An independent candidate for the Baluchistan provincial assembly was also killed in the southwestern town of Jhal Magsi on Tuesday.

Karachi has seen a string of attacks on the election campaign.

Late Thursday, a bomb wounded at least five people near an election office for MQM, the party that dominates Karachi.

Three bombs, two of which targeted MQM and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), killed three people and wounded 49 others on Saturday.

In the capital Islamabad on Friday, Pakistan's main state prosecutor in the 2007 murder of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and the 2008 Mumbai attacks, was shot dead en route to a court hearing on the Bhutto case, police said.

Chaudhry Zulfiqar was shot multiple times after gunmen intercepted his vehicle after he left home. His bodyguard was also wounded and a woman passer-by killed.

President Asif Ali Zardari, Bhutto's widower, condemned the killing and ordered a thorough investigation to "expose the real culprits involved in the murder", his office said.

Former military ruler Pervez Musharraf was this week placed under two-week house arrest over charges that he conspired to murder Bhutto.

Nobody has ever been convicted or jailed for Bhutto's assassination in a gun and suicide attack after a campaign rally in Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007.

Musharraf's government blamed the killing on Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, who denied any involvement and was killed in a US drone attack in 2009.

In 2010 a UN report said Bhutto's death could have been prevented and accused Musharraf's government of failing to give her adequate protection.

Zulfiqar was also the main government prosecutor who indicted seven alleged conspirators in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which killed 166 people and which were blamed on Pakistan's Islamist group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Musharraf's All Party Muslim League announced on Friday it will boycott next week's election, after a court this week banned the former ruler from contesting elections for the rest of his life.

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