A suicide bomber struck a religious gathering in Pakistan on Friday (September 29) to commemorate the birthday of Prophet Mohammed in a volatile area on the country’s border with Afghanistan, killing at least 52 people and wounding more than 50, according to health officials and police.
Despite a recent uptick in strikes by militant organisations in western Pakistan, no one has yet claimed credit for the explosion, heightening the stakes for security forces in the run-up to national elections in January.
According to Deputy Inspector General of Police Munir Ahmed, who spoke to Reuters, “the bomber detonated himself near the vehicle of the Deputy Superintendent of Police.”
Ahmed said the explosion occurred close to a mosque in Balochistan province as people were preparing to march in a parade to celebrate Mohammed’s birthday, a national festival.
Abdul Rasheed, a local health director, reported 58 casualties, and indicated the number could grow because so many people were in critical condition.
Since a ceasefire fell down between the government and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) last year, several hardline Sunni Islamist groups in Pakistan have increased their attacks on the country.
The TTP has denied responsibility for the incident on Friday.
Sarfraz Bugti, minister of the interior, described the incident as “very heinous.”
A suicide bomber struck a gathering of a religious political party in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the northwest of Pakistan in July, killing more than 40 people.
Pakistan ex-PM Imran Khan moved to another jail
Meanwhile, after having his detention extended by two weeks in a state secrets case relating to his 2022 removal, former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was transported to a jail near the capital Islamabad.
After spending almost three weeks in Attock Jail, some 100km (62 miles) away, where he was sent after his conviction in a corruption case last month, Khan, 70, was transferred to Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi city on Tuesday night.
Social media videos depict a big group of Khan’s supporters lining the road and showering the police vehicle with flower petals as they transport him to Rawalpindi.
The Islamabad High Court reversed Khan’s conviction in August, but he remains in detention as officials look into the leak of a secret diplomatic cable codenamed “cypher” that Khan believes validates his claim that the United States was behind his departure from office.
The United States and Pakistani governments both deny the allegation.
Since Attock is one of the largest prisons in Pakistan, Khan’s attorneys had petitioned the Islamabad High Court to have him transferred to a different prison.
According to Khan’s party members in Pakistan, he is in danger at Attock Jail.
On Tuesday, the court ordered the jail officials to transfer him to Adiala and to give him with better amenities befitting a former premier.
Intazar Hussain Panjutha, Khan’s attorney, told Al Jazeera on Wednesday that the opposition leader has not complained about the conditions in Attock prison since the day before when they met. Khan is currently serving a life sentence for treason.
Since his ouster in April of last year, Khan has been pushing for early elections, which the government has thus far refused to grant.
The election commission ruled that he was ineligible to run for office after his conviction in August, and they scheduled general elections for January.