Musharraf escapes assassination attempt

Snehesh Alex Philip
Islamabad: Pakistan’s former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, facing treason trial, narrowly escaped an assassination attempt on Thursday when a powerful bomb went off near his farmhouse here minutes after his convoy had passed.
The blast took place between Faizabad and Rawal Dam Chowk 20-25 minutes after Musharraf’s convoy passed through the route at about 3 am when he was being shifted to his heavily guarded farmhouse from Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology in Rawalpindi where he was admitted for the last three months.
He was unhurt, but officials said the blast caused about a foot deep hole in the ground.
The police claimed that the 70-year-old former president was the target.
“The blast took place about 20 minutes after Musharraf reached the farmhouse. By God’s grace, he is safe,” Aasia Ishaque, spokesperson of Musharraf’s APML party, told PTI.
She said it was the responsibility of the government to provide security to the former army chief who remains on the hit-list of various militant groups.
Islamabad police confirmed to PTI that the blast took place after Musharraf had taken the route. “The blast took place 25 minutes after Musharraf drove past,” a source said.
A bomb disposal squad was called in at the blast site—three kilometers from Musharraf’s sprawling Chak Shehzad farmhouse on the outskirts of the city.
The bomb was planted in a drainage pipe adjacent to the footpath. TV footages showed a small crater adjacent to the footpath.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility. While initially the traffic was stopped, it was resumed soon after.
A case regarding has been registered against unknown persons in the Secretariat Police Station.
Since Musharraf is under threat from militant groups, heavy security has been given to him and all his routes are thoroughly checked before he gets out.
Musharraf’s spokesperson Raza Bokhari confirmed the blast took place after the former president had taken the route.
“We are relieved to confirm Gen Musharraf escaped an attempt on his life in the wee hours of the morning. This underscores the grave threat that Pakistan, Gen Musharraf and other moderate voices face from violent extremist who act with impunity,” Bokhari told PTI.
Reacting to the blast, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar said the Islamabad police was not aware of his movement and that an investigation has been ordered into the incident.
Musharraf has survived numerous assassination attempts and plots against him during his time in power.
The former military dictator was admitted to the AFIC on January 2 when he complained of heart problems on his way to a special court set up for his high treason trial for abrogating the constitution and detaining judges in 2007.
This is the fifth time that explosive material was found from places close to either Musharraf’s accommodation or his travel route.
On January 1, explosives with three electronic circuits and remote control were found on the route scheduled to be taken to a special court by the former president.
On December 30, 2013 five packets each containing 0.5kg explosives were found near his farmhouse.
On December 24, the day Musharraf was to appear before a court hearing treason trial against him, a five-kilo Improvised Explosive Device was found in a briefcase along the route he would have taken to reach the court.
Musharraf failed to show up for that hearing, citing security concerns.
On April 23, 2013 an explosive-laden car was found outside his farmhouse. The police had claimed the car was meant to target the former president’s convoy on his return from an anti-terrorism court from Rawalpindi. Musharraf is facing five counts of high treason that potentially carry death penalty or life imprisonment.
Since his return to Pakistan from self-exile in March last year, Musharraf has faced prosecution in four major cases, including for his alleged involvement in the murder of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007 and the killing of Baloch nationalist leader Akbar Bugti in 2006.
Musharraf was indicted on Monday by a special court hearing the high treason case against him, becoming the first- ever military ruler to face criminal prosecution.—PTI