Islamabad: Pakistanis on Sunday mourned the death of anti-Taliban politician Bashir Ahmad Bilour in a suicide bombing, with political leaders and media calling his killing "naked terrorism" and asking the military to stop seeing some militants as "assets to be used to further foreign policy interests in Afghanistan and India."
Politicians from the ruling coalition led by the PPP and opposition parties condemned the killing, and Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf declared a nationwide day of mourning.
The banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for yesterday`s attack on Bilour that also left eight others dead and nearly 20 injured, saying he was targeted to avenge the killing of a tribal elder who had trained many militants.
Bilour, 69, was a tireless campaigner against the Taliban and extremism in the restive Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, which is ruled by his Awami National Party.
Despite being targeted twice by suicide bombers, he was usually among the first officials to arrive at the site of terror attacks.
ANP chief Asfandyar Wali Khan, who too has been targeted by the Taliban, said Bilour`s death was a loss not just for the party "but for all liberals and for Pakistan."
He told reporters: "This will not stop at the ANP. These terrorists are against the democratic system. They will target everyone one by one."
The ANP has lost some 700 workers, including several senior leaders, since it came to power in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa in 2008.
Khan pledged that ANP workers would not "sit at home" despite the attack on Bilour but warned that there would be no success in the war on terrorism if Pakistan`s political forces did not unite.
Tehrik-e-Insaf leader Imran Khan, who is often criticised for being soft on the Taliban, was among those who condemned Bilour`s killing.
In a message posted on Twitter, Khan wrote: "Sad sad news. Have just heard about tragedy of Bashir Bilour`s death. TTP has claimed responsibility. Strongly condemn its naked terrorism."
Bilour`s assassination dominated the front pages of Pakistan`s newspapers, and the headline on the front page of The Express Tribune read: "Taliban silence most vocal critic."
In an editorial titled "How much more?", the liberal Tribune said the killing of Bilour "underscores yet again just how perilous it is to be a politician in Pakistan."
"It would have been easy for Bilour and his ilk to cower in fear and hide behind hundreds of police escorts. Instead they took the fight to the Taliban and never shied away from their public duties."
The editorial warned that Pakistan`s politicians would continue to be targeted by the Taliban as long as the army continued to perceive some militants as "assets" and did not launch operations against their strongholds like North Waziristan tribal agency.
"Despite the murders, both of renowned politicians and the nameless, the military the only institution capable of defeating the Taliban has taken a head-in-the-sand approach. They see these thugs as assets to be used to further foreign policy interests in Afghanistan and India," the editorial said.
"The military`s first priority should be getting rid of this internal threat before it becomes an eternal problem. This means going into North Waziristan and any other safe haven the militants may have. It means securing our cities and protecting our elected representatives. Only then will Bashir Bilour not have died in vain."
The News daily, in its editorial, cautioned that Bilour`s assassination was a "ghastly reminder that the next general elections may be a bloody and messy affair and its participants and activists a highly vulnerable target for terrorists to hit wherever and whenever they want."