No coup bid against Musharraf: Pak
Pakistan's Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao slams reports on coup bid against the president as 'baseless'.india Updated: Oct 14, 2006 17:23 IST
Pakistan has denied a report suggesting there had been a coup attempt against President Pervez Musharraf after his high-profile visit to the United States.
Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, however, confirmed that eight people including air force officers, suspected to have links with Al-Qaeda, have been arrested in connection with rockets planted near Musharraf's residence.
Sherpao termed as "baseless" a report in Asia Times, an online magazine, that a coup had been foiled and that 40 Islamist extremists have been arrested in this connection.
"It is totally baseless (report), the Musharraf government is very strong and faces no threat," the minister told The Nation newspaper.
Other Pakistani newspapers also carried a strong denial by the minister and arrest of those suspected of planting rockets near the VVIP complex where Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz reside and along the nine kilometres deeply forested route that Musharraf travels to work.
They were detected earlier this month, soon after Musharraf returned from his prolonged visit to the US, the UN and Britain.
"Why should there be a coup, the baseless report is someone's personal imagination," he added.
Asked at a media conference if Musharraf was the target of these rockets, the minister said the terrorists actually intended to create chaos in the twin cities.
"Most of those arrested are middle-ranking Pakistani Air Force officers, while the civilians arrested include a son of a serving army brigadier," the report had claimed.
It further stated the foiled plan was discovered through the naivety of an air force officer who had used a cell phone to activate a high-tech rocket aimed at the president's residence in Rawalpindi.
According to Asia Times Online sources, more arrests can be expected, both military and civilian.
While a rocket exploded at Ayub Park in the VVIP complex Oct 4, more rockets, that did not explode, were detected on Oct 5 and 7.
Each of these incidents were officially termed as attempts on Musharraf's life.
Taken seriously, they are being probed at a high-level, Aziz had told the media last week.
The Oct 7 incident, when rockets were found hidden behind thick bushes along Musharraf's route, was initially published as "a mock exercise".
But by the end of that day, the government officially admitted that the findings were for real.
Pakistan has linked the arrests of the Al-Qaeda suspects to neighbouring Afghanistan.
"All the militants had visited Afghanistan in the past and they might have links with Al-Qaeda," Sherpao said.
"So far, eight militants, all of them Pakistanis, have been arrested for involvement in placing ready-to-launch Russian-made 107mm rockets at three different places in Rawalpindi and Islamabad."
According to Asia Times, while in the US, Musharraf had also claimed that former Inter-services Intelligence (ISI) officials were supporting the Taliban and he sent instructions to the director general of the ISI to check on top officials, including Lt Gen (retd) Hamid Gul and Col (retd) Ameer Sultan (known as Col Imam).
Gul is a former director general of the ISI and Ameer is considered as the founding father of the Taliban movement.
Ameer was Pakistan's consul-general in Herat in western Afghanistan when the Taliban emerged as a force in the mid-1990s.
Musharraf also instructed that a list be compiled of all retired officers who had been involved in any significant intelligence operations and were suspected of being sympathetic towards the Taliban.
First Published: Oct 14, 2006 16:10 IST