An explosion at a political rally in northwestern Pakistan on Sunday killed 40 people and injured 130 others.

The deadly blast took place in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. According to Reuters, the police has not identified the cause of the explosion. The explosion took place a gathering of the conservative Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) party, known for its links to hardline political Islam. “The JUI-F organised a workers convention in Khar town of Bajaur in which 40 people lost their lives and more than 130 were injured,” district police officer Nazir Khan told Reuters.

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The rally was organized by supporters of Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who is the party’s leader. Rehman himself was not in attendance at the rally, according to officials.

Who is Maulana Fazlur Rehman?

Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman is an Islamic fundamentalist politician and the president of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (F). Rehmann was born on June 19, 1953 in a village. His early education was from Millat High School. He attained a Bachelor’s degree in 1983 from University of Peshawar and completed his Master’s degree at Al-Azhar University Cairo.

He is also the president of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM). PDM is a coalition of political parties which ousted former prime minister Imran Khan through a no-confidence motion in 2022.

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Rehman was also a member of the National Assembly between 1988 and 2018, He was the Leader of the Opposition from 2004 to 2007. He has famously supported the Taliban government in Afghanistan and has demanded for its international recognition. In the 1980s, he was part of the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD), which aimed to end the military regime of General Zia-ul-Haq.

He is known to keep close ties with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. However, in the recent years he has attempted to re-brand himself as a moderate. In the past, he has called for imposition of Sharia in Pakistan. When in power in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from 2004 to 2007, his party passed the ‘Hasba Bill’ which was later declared illegal and unconstitutional.