Posted by: Lister | July 20, 2007

After the Red Mosque

Suicide Bomber Kills 14 at Rally in Pakistan. (Via WinterPatriot)

A suicide bomber detonated a powerful bomb near an outdoor stage where the country’s suspended chief justice was to address members of Pakistan’s opposition parties on Tuesday evening, killing at least 14 people and wounding at least 40, according to the police.

The attack occurred around 8:30 p.m. 100 yards from where the chief justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, was to speak to a crowd about half an hour later. Mr. Chaudhry’s convoy was several miles away when the bomber struck.

Most of the dead and wounded belonged to the Pakistan Peoples Party of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Ten were in critical condition, according to hospital sources. Four policemen were among those wounded. The blast thrust the capital into a new round of disorder less than a week after a violent siege at a hard-line mosque and seminary that has enraged radical Islamists.

There was no claim of responsibility, though speculation was rampant. It was possible that the bombing was part of the backlash from the siege, aimed this time at Ms. Bhutto’s supporters because she had endorsed it.

But many pointed a finger at the Pakistani intelligence agencies. “It was a direct attack on the chief justice by the agencies,” said Munir A. Malik, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association and a member of Mr. Chaudhry’s legal team. “They wanted to get rid of him.”

Mr. Chaudhry, who was dismissed by the Pakistani president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, in March on charges of misconduct, has become a rallying point for Pakistanis clamoring for an end to military rule. Mr. Chaudhry has appealed his ouster, and a court decision on his fate is expected soon.

Ms. Bhutto, the country’s main opposition leader, who lives abroad, said she believed that her party’s workers were the target of “hidden hands” seeking to create a pretext for General Musharraf to impose emergency rule.

[…] For the last several months, Mr. Chaudhry’s addresses have drawn large crowds, and turned into rallies to vent frustration with more than seven years of military rule.

His case was the greatest challenge to General Musharraf’s rule until the uprising at the Red Mosque. The violent confrontations that resulted between troops and militants holed up inside the compound ended Wednesday with at least 102 dead, including 11 members of security forces.

Since then, about 100 people, most police officers and soldiers, have been killed by bombs and shootings in parts of North-West Frontier Province, where Taliban influence has spread from adjacent tribal areas.

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