Seven people were killed and 17 injured when a suicide bomber tried to enter a high-security area in Rawalpindi, close to where Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was holding a meeting. Most of the dead were policemen who tried to stop the suicide bomber, described by eyewitnesses as a young man with flowing hair.
The attack near Musharraf’s official residence comes amidst heightened security tensions in Pakistan following the military operation in Swat, a five-hour drive from Islamabad. On Monday, government forces and militants agreed to a ceasefire in hostilities after heavy fighting in which over 50 persons have died in the past week. Some of the militants had promised to “take the war to Islamabad”.
It is believed that a number of important decisions with regard to the government's policy on fighting terror as well as the composition of the caretaker cabinet were under discussion at the Musharraf meeting.
A foreign hand in blasts?
In a related development, the Pakistani government claimed that a foreign hand was involved in the series of attacks that have hit the country in October. Interior ministry spokesman Brigadier Javed Iqbal Cheema said in his briefing after the bombing incident that the government was trying to find links between the series of bomb attacks in the country, including one which led to the death of over 140 people in mid-October during a political procession in Karachi to welcome opposition leader Benazir Bhutto.
Cheema also told reporters that the government had unearthed evidence of foreign involvement in the Swat conflict. He, however, declined to say which countries may have been involved. Pakistan has earlier suggested that Saudi Arabia and Iran have been supporting extremist religious outfits in the area.
Tuesday’s attack has given rise to more speculation that the forthcoming elections may be postponed. But the government has strongly denied this. Opposition leader Benazir Bhutto cautioned that the attacks are being staged “for this very purpose”.
Bhutto said that the terror attacks were being conducted by those who do not want elections to be held and people to vote.