ISLAMABAD - Caretaker Interior Minister Muhammad Azam Khan Wednesday informed the Senate that Prime Minister Nasirul Mulk would chair an important meeting of the apex committee of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa today (Thursday) in the backdrop of terrorist attack at an election meeting of Awami National Party (ANP). 

Winding up discussion in the house on the terrorist attack at a corner meeting of ANP in Yakatut area of Peshawar, the caretaker minister also said that Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has accepted responsibility for the suicide attack.

Azam Khan said that Prime Minister Nasirul Mulk in the meeting would discuss matters pertaining to security for electoral candidates.

He said according to a report received from the KP government some friends had invited ANP candidate Haroon Bilour over a cup of tea at the place where he became victim of the suicide attack. He asked political leaders to cooperate with the administration in their own security interest.

Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani announced that he would constitute a committee to review security threats to candidates. He said the Ministry of Interior and NACTA would give reports on prevailing security threats to the committee.

Earlier, PPP, PML-N, and MQM lawmakers  criticised the caretaker government for the withdrawal of security from politicians and for its failure to provide security to Haroon Bilour despite NACTA’s warning that the ANP leadership was under threat.

PPP Senator and Chairman of the Senate’s Standing Committee on Interior Rehman Malik said that the Islamic State (IS) or also known as Daesh was active in the region while Al-Qaeda also had presence in Pakistan. He said the two militant organisations and TTP had formed a syndicate and wanted to inject elements of violence in the upcoming general polls.

He said a senior NACTA official during a meeting of Interior Committee had recently disclosed the names of politicians under threat and it particularly mentioned ANP leaders Asfandyar Wali Khan, Ameer Haider Hoti and its local leader besides PTI Chairman Imran Khan.

He said the all the chief ministers, home secretaries and inspectors generals of police should form a strategy to deal with the situation and formulate standard operating procedure (SOP) not only for elections day but also during the period prior to elections.

The opposition leader Sherry Rehman said that level-playing field should be given to all stakeholders in the election. She lamented that  despite clear warnings, no security had been provided to candidates though it was the responsibility of the government to provide security to the politicians. She disclosed that she was being chased by two dubious vehicles.

PTI Senator Shibli Faraz also said level-playing field was the democratic right of all candidates. He said the leaders and candidates under threat must be provided with security. 

PML-N Senator Pervez Rasheed (PML-N) said there was a time when Pakistan was a country free from the menace of sectarian as well as terrorism and called for accountability of those responsible for dividing the nation.

Referring to the decision to deploy armed forces personnel at all polling stations, he said: “if we are capable to keep an eye on all voters, why we cannot watch a handful of terrorists.”

MQM Senator Barrister Muhammad Ali Saif said that Peshawar attack was a result of wrong policies. He noted that the upcoming elections would not be free and fair and said these will in fact be compromised polls. He regretted that a situation was being created where candidates would find it difficult to campaign. He said the institutions responsible should be held accountable.

PML-N Senator Musaddik Malik criticised the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for suspending local governments. He questioned how constitutionally formed institutions be suspended? Chaudhry Tanvir, lawmaker of the same party,  said that hands of all political parties were being fastened to give benefit to a specific party.

PPP Senator Maula Bux Chandio said the ANP and PPP had not been allowed to campaign in the previous general elections. He said security had been withdrawn from those who are under threat.