A Pakistani commuter rides past a poster of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf in Rawalpindi. (AFP Photo)
Former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf escaped an assassination attempt on Thursday morning as a bomb went off shortly before his convoy was due to pass at a main Islamabad inter-change, police officials said.
Musharraf was on his way to his farm house in Chak Shahzad on the outskirts of Islamabad, coming from the Armed Force Institute of Cardiology (AFIC) in neighboring city of Rawalpindi, where he had been admitted for medical reasons since early January.
Twenty minutes before Musharraf’s convoy passed the Faizabad inter-change, a four kilogram bomb planted in a pipe under a bridge exploded, destroying part of a footpath and creating a small crater. Musharraf’s convoy then took an alternate route and he arrived safely at his house soon after.
In a related development, General Musharraf’s lawyers filed an application with the Supreme Court on Friday seeking the court to order the removal of the former president’s name from the Exit Control List (ECL).
The application pleaded with the court to allow Musharraf to leave the country on humanitarian grounds given that his mother is seriously ill and admitted to a hospital in the UAE. On Thursday, the government had advised Musharraf’s lawyers to seek redressal from the courts if he wanted his name removed from the ECL.
So far, the Sharif government has resisted pressure to allow Musharraf to leave the country, say observers. Apart from requests from Saudi Arabia and other friendly countries, the army leadership has also urged the prime minister to let their former chief go so that the matter is settled.
Friday’s attempt on Musharraf will help strengthen his case for an early exit from Pakistan, says analyst Amir Ilyas. The only issue now, he says, is that of who will bell the cat. The Sharif government is open to the idea of Musharraf leaving but it does not want to be seen as allowing it.
Prime Minister Sharif told his kitchen cabinet earlier this week that he was against Musharraf leaving the country as it would set a bad precedence but at the same time his government would respect any decision of the courts in this regard.
This is not the first time Musharraf has been targeted. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has threatened that it will attack Musharraf repeatedly because of the former president’s role in the army action at Lal Masjid in Islamabad.
This is the fifth time explosive material was planted on a route which Musharraf was taking. In the past, the discovery of explosive devices led to Musharraf cancelling his appearance in the special court set up to try him on treason charges.