Deputy Information Minister Tariq Azeem came out with a clear statement that terror will not stop the general elections in Pakistan from proceeding. This is also a clear sign that President Musharraf will not use the attack on the Bhutto motorcade as a pretext for emergency rule — something his political opponents immediately said he would do almost before the rubble settled.
Musharraf’s opponents still want to paint this into some dark plot, but the power-mad terrorists in the hinterlands are the ones with the dark plot for power. To displace that evil to government because of political disagreements takes a sick mind. Article at Bloomberg:
Oct. 19 (Bloomberg) — Pakistan’s government vowed that parliamentary elections won’t be disrupted after a suicide bomb attack on former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s convoy killed at least 136 people.
“The elections will go ahead as planned and we will ensure the road to democracy isn’t disrupted,” Deputy Information Minister Tariq Azeem said in a telephone interview from the capital, Islamabad, today. “If terrorists think they can derail the election process, they are wrong,” he added.
Most speculators, including myself, have the attacking group as Baitullah Mehsud’s Taliban. While Ayman Al Zawahiri could be behind it, they are pretty busy in North Waziristan and I would bet their resources are directed elsewhere. Baitullah seems more bent on personal power within his tribal region in Pakistan now than aligned with Al Qaeda’s cause, although both have threatened Bhutto.
In South Waziristan Baitullah still holds between 200-300 soldiers hostage as well.
UPDATE: AQ/Baitullah Links cited by Pakistan Security forces:
A top provincial security official said on Friday that the suicide attack on Benazir Bhutto bore the hallmarks of an al-Qaeda-linked, pro-Taliban warlord based near the Afghan border.
President Gen. Pervez Musharraf labelled the attack part of a “conspiracy against democracy,” reaching out to the former prime minister with whom he is trying to forge a pro-US, anti-militant alliance.
The “signature at the blast site and the modus operandi” suggested the involvement of militants linked to warlord Baitullah Mehsud and al-Qaeda, said Ghulam Muhammad Mohtarem, the head security official in the province where Mehsud is based.
What will the effects of the twin blasts be? Certainly Benazir will have to look to security first, and this will deter turnout for her gatherings. She will have to switch to mostly-media campaign just to protect her followers, which is normally not how things are done in Pakistan.
Later today she will hold a news conference, and we will see at that time where she stands. Will she visit the victims families, and attend funerals? Will she make strong statements on the terrorists?
While most in Pakistan loathe the deal that brought her back, some path back to free, normal government that will not tear the country apart again must be found. The previous period like this was when Bangladesh split away, and I suspect that is exactly the sort of rift the terror elements want to create.
To go back to the terror attack in Paksistan a moment – the death toll has now sadly risen to 136, and many are still in critical status in hospitals. Evidence is emerging that the first blast was a
planted explosive[editor: updates have it that the first was a hand-grenade], and that the second was a suicide bomber who dashed in once the primary stopped the caravan.[ed: new updates state police also captured a man with a pistol] This is classic Al Qaeda technique, so I am not taking them off the list of suspects even though Baitullah has the lead.
Pakistan is an Islamic country, and to deny the will of the voters in an Islamic country free elections can’t be jihad, instead it is hiraba, unholy. That goes for terrorists or politicians.
Why did Al Qaeda declare war on Pakistan? It goes back to moves last October, that shifted segments of Old-Guard & purged ISI against the government. They don’t like the direction towards peace with India and a settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir dilemma.
The assassination attempts against Musharraf and the alignment of the terror groups with Al Qaeda against the government started last October when Musharraf rolled up the forty-year old training camps for Jihadis the government previously supported. Lal Masjid quickly followed, and the tapes from Zawahiri and Bin Laden, along with the alignment of those groups with AQ followed that.
Here’s an educational post on the subject.