Al Qaeda hand seen behind bid on Musharraf’s life
* Musharraf evades ‘numerous’ enemies yet again
ISLAMABAD: President Pervez Musharraf survived another botched attempt to blow up his motorcade on Thursday but this time his enemies - which are said to be numerous - came closer than ever.
The latest attempt on the Pakistani leader’s life was the second in 11 days and third since April 2002.
Following the December 14 attempt in which a bomb blew up a bridge seconds after his motorcade passed, Musharraf said the attack was a bid by Islamic extremists to kill him. Musharraf blamed “militants, extremists and terrorists who... bring a bad name to our great religion”.
Analysts were more forthcoming, however, saying at the time that the Pakistani leader has a lot of enemies who would like to see him dead. Political commentator Muhammad Afzal Niazi said “any number of people could be behind” the attempts to kill Musharraf, who is increasingly assuming a role as a world crusader for moderate Islam.
Thursday’s attack came just a day after Musharraf’s decision to step down as armed forces chief next year and shed some powers in a move that politicians said could end a bitter row with Islamists and hasten Pakistan’s return to the Commonwealth.
“There is a lot of resentment against him,” Mr Niazi said after the December 14 attempt on Musharraf’s life.
“Who doesn’t love him? Al Qaeda doesn’t love him, the Taliban don’t love him, they see him as having betrayed them after September 11.“There may be some Kashmiri freedom fighters, which means Pakistanis who fought in Kashmir who feel that by reducing assistance levels or ending assistance he has betrayed the Kashmir cause.”
“Or it could be sectarian terrorists from either side of the sectarian divide,” Mr Niazi said.
“There may be elements within the armed forces who are sympathetic with anyone of these particular groups. Or it could be some within the police.”
Since the December 14 attack, the Pakistani leader has done little to appease his enemies.
He recently raised the ire of many of his opponents by offering alternatives to Islamabad’s life-long demand that Kashmir residents be allowed to choose rule by India or Pakistan. The suggestion by Musharraf in an interview on Friday last week that Pakistan could back down on the Kashmir plebiscite demand provoked a furious response from powerful Islamists in Pakistan.
“Many of the (outlawed) groups are very annoyed with General Musharraf’s policy,” said Khalid Mahmud, researcher at the Institute for Regional Studies.
“There are dozens of religious extremist groups against whom General Musharraf has acted. Some were involved in sectarian warfare, others in pro-Taliban activities, many have been arrested, many organisations have been banned. So therefore there could be any group of people who want him dead.”
“Above all a large number of religious groups are annoyed at General Musharraf’s association with the Americans, they consider him pro-America.”
Al Qaeda factor: Al Qaeda militants and religious fanatics in Pakistan are feared to be behind an increasingly organised effort to kill President Pervez Musharraf, analysts said, following the second assassination attempt in 11 days.
Ruling party Senator Mushahid Hussain called the attacks a “matter of deep concern,” especially since the latest bid was made near Musharraf’s residence, in the heart of an area controlled by the military which he leads.
“It shows an organised group is chasing him,” he said, while an interior ministry official called the attacks a “new trend,” saying that suicide bombings were not common in Pakistan. —AFP