An explosive device went off inside a truck parked on the route former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif is to take on Wednesday for a public rally in Lahore, injuring at least 35 people, officials said.
Official sources told PTI that the explosives were placed in the truck laden with fruits on the Out Fall Road – the route Sharif is to take on his return to his hometown for the first time since the Panama Papers scandal verdict on July 28.
Sharif was initially scheduled to travel to Lahore from Islamabad via the famous Grand Trunk Road on Sunday, but the rally was postponed to Wednesday.
“It appears the explosive device was to target Sharif’s cavalcade,” the sources said, adding that Sharif is now likely to review his Wednesday’s planned march through the route.
The truck was parked there for the past three days, police said citing initial reports they had received.
“It appears to be a message for Nawaz Sharif to cancel or defer his planned rally on coming Wednesday,” the sources said.
The PML-N has planned a “million march” against Sharif’s disqualification by the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers case. Opposition leader Imram Khan has expressed concern over the ousted prime minister’s plan to travel to Lahore with a cavalcade, terming it “a deliberate attempt to undermine the Supreme Court” and its judgement in the high-profile scandal.
Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal said Sharif’s travel plans were making Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leaders anxious.
“Khan’s is afraid of the strong solidarity that will be demonstrated by the masses for the ousted prime minister, who is now emerging as the people’s prime minister,” Iqbal said.
A rescue official told PTI that an explosive device planted in the truck went off at around 9pm local time.
The kind of device and the explosives used were not yet known.
Police and rescue officials have cordoned off the area.
“At least 35 people have been injured and admitted to hospitals. An injured minor girl is stated to be critical,” he said.
DIG Haider Ashraf confirmed that it was a bomb blast and said that the blast has created a huge crater.
“We have launched investigation on all aspects,” he said.
Azim Hanif, an eyewitness, said he was going to the parking area when the powerful blast took place.
“Due the impact of the blast, I fell on the ground. After a couple of minutes when I gained my senses, I saw some people injured,” Hanif said.
The explosion shattered the windows of nearby buildings. A number of bikes and cars were damaged due to its intensity.
Lahore, the cultural capital of Pakistan, has witnessed several terror attacks in recent months.
On July 24, a Taliban suicide bomber struck a police team near residence-cum-office of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif here, killing 27 people, including policemen.
In April, six persons were killed and 15 others injured when a suicide bomber targeted a population census team in Lahore’s Bedian Road.
In February, a suicide bomber killed 14 people, including senior police officers, near the Punjab Assembly here.