Was the suicide bomb attack at Islamabad's Marriot Hotel aimed at the R-Day reception hosted there by Indian High Commissioner Satyabratha Pal? There were no ready answers to the question that agitated top security and MEA officials among the guests at a reception hosted by President APJ Abdul Kalam in New Delhi on Friday.
The news of the attack was broken to presspersons by National Security Advisor MK Narayanan and Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon during Kalam’s reception on the lawns of the Rashtrapati Bhawan. Details of the bombing were furnished later by an MEA official who said the bomber blew himself up on being intercepted by security guards at Marriot at around 3.20 pm IST.
The Indian envoy’s reception there was to start at 7 pm but some officials of the Indian Mission were in the hotel to oversee the arrangements when the attack took place.
The MEA official and sources in the Indian Mission told the Hindustan Times that the reception was held as per the original schedule following a security clearance by the Pakistani authorities.
Agency reports from Islamabad quoted Pakistan’s Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao to state that two persons, including the security guard, died in the attack and five others were injured. However, Pak TV channels placed the number of the dead at three.
Regardless of the attacker's motive, the incident is not the first of its kind at Marriot, the Pak capital’s most popular and crowded hotel in the vicinity of the PTV complex, the National Assembly, the Prime Minister’s House and the Presidency building called the Aiwan-e-Sadr.
The guesthouses of “Azad Kashmir” and Pakistani provinces -- comparable with the bhawans of various states in Delhi -- are also a walkable distance from the hotel.
In recent years, Marriot has often been the venue of Indian national day receptions watched closely by Pak intelligence agencies and attended, for protocol purposes, by a junior minister of the host government.