Israrullah Khan Gandapur walked towards his smiling young visitor to greet him on Wednesday evening, the first day of Bakri Eid in his hujra, a place to meet people, outside his residence, at Kulachi in Dera Ismail Khan district. The young man dressed in new clothes embraced the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) law minister and detonated himself, killing Gandapur on the spot and seven others. His older brother Ikramullah who was sitting some distance away managed to survive but those sitting next to him were dead.
The KPK government said on Friday that the suicide bomber was between 20 to 22 years old and spoke to the minister in the local language before the explosion. Faisal Karim Kundi, a Pakistan Peoples Party politician from Dera Ismail Khan and a former deputy speaker of the National Assembly told The Hindu on phone on Friday that it was the custom to go to greet people who come to visit you on Eid day and Israrullah walked eight to ten feet to greet his visitor before it all ended. He had run into the KPK law minister only last week in Peshawar. ``We met for a short time and it was the last time I saw him,” he says. Married in 2006 he is survived by his wife, an infant daughter and a son.
A Masters in Political Science, Gandapur, 39, studied in Kulachi before going to Peshawar to complete his studies. He took to active politics after the death of his father, Sardar Inayatullah Khan Gandapur, a former chief minister of the North West Frontier Province and a strong influence. The family has a close relationship with Maulana Fazl ur Rehman of the Jamiat Ulema e Islam(JUI) (Fazl ur Rehman) faction and backed each other during elections. In a recent by-election in Dera Ismail Khan cum Tank area for the National Assembly even though Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) and the others had ranged themselves against the Maulana’s party, Gandapur supported the Maulana’s son Asad Mehmood who lost.
Jan Achakzai, spokesperson for the JUIF, said that it was a terrible tragedy and he was a decent leader from the PTI. He was targeted for no reason. However, Gandapur did get some threats since last year and there was an attempt on his life in April too. While he won the provincial assembly seat as an Independent, he later joined PTI.
Hours before his death, Gandapur had sent a text message to a friend asking him to meet him before it was too late. Shiraz Paracha, spokesperson for the KPK chief minister said everyone was talking about this message and whether it was a premonition of sorts. That seems unlikely going by a photo taken before Gandapur was killed. It showed a smiling relaxed politician meeting people.
Mr Paracha says he knew him for a few months and he was one of the finest members of the provincial cabinet in terms of his extensive knowledge about Constitutional affairs and his understanding of the rules of business. He had an important role to play since the Constitution has devolved powers to the provinces and he was part of a nine member central committee to oversee these changes. He had a grasp of governance related issues and in a short period of time he had become one of the shining stars of the PTI government.
“I knew him as a thorough gentleman and he would come prepared for meetings and put the bureaucrats on the backfoot. There is a perception unfortunately in KPK that politicians were not upto scratch but this young man was an outstanding exception,” says Mr Paracha.
People also spoke of his simple lifestyle --he lived in a narrow street in Kulachi. He mingled with people and met them easily. "That could be one of the reasons for his death,” rues Mr Paracha.