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Pakistan suicide bombers strike arms factory PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 22 August 2008

At least 50 have been killed in double attack outside main weapons factory

Agencies

At least 50 people have died after two suicide bombers blew themselves up at the gates of Pakistan's main weapons complex as the coalition government looked in danger of unravelling.

Amid heightened political uncertainty following the resignation of the president, Pervez Musharraf, earlier this week, bombers struck the sprawling facility in Wah, a garrison city about 20 miles west of the capital Islamabad.
 
The bombers blew themselves up at two different gates just as many workers were leaving, police said. About 70 people were wounded, many of whom are in critical condition. Soldiers and police cordoned off the area, preventing reporters from approaching. Television footage showed ambulances lining up on the road outside.
 
Rana Tanveer, who was working at a bank about 200 metres from one of the gates where one of the bombers struck, said he was among the first to reach the scene.
 
"All around the gate I saw blood and human flesh. People helped the injured and took them in their cars and even on motorbikes to the hospital," he told the Associated Press. "Seven or eight people were already dead and another 10 people were breathing their last."
 
Maulvi Umar, a spokesman for Pakistani Taliban groups, said that the attacks were in revenge for air strikes in Bajaur, near the Afghan border and threatened more bombings unless border operations are halted.
 
The Pakistani government is coming under pressure from the US to step up operations against Taliban sympathisers.
 
The factory is on the road into Pakistan's troubled north-west, where fighting between security forces and Islamist militants has escalated in recent weeks. The latest atrocity came as Pakistan's two main parties were set to fall out over the issue of whether to reinstate judges who were dismissed by Musharraf.
 
The coalition's second biggest party, the Muslim League-N, led by the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, has threatened to leave the alliance unless a decision is taken by tomorrow to reappoint the supreme court judges removed last year.
 
The Pakistani stock market has started to see share prices fall after initial gains when Musharraf quit. There is nervousness that divisions among Pakistani leaders will distract the government from tackling severe economic problems and rising Islamist extremism.
 
Sharif told the Wall Street Journal the sacking of the judges had shaken the foundations of the country and it was necessary to restore them to their jobs.
 
"We will not try to bring the government down," Sharif said in remarks published today. "But, of course, we then have no choice but to sit in the opposition."
 
The reinstatement of the supreme court judges has been a contentious issue between the Muslim League-N and its coalition partner, the Pakistan People's party (PPP) led by Asif Ali Zardari, husband of the assassinated Benazir Bhutto.
 
The PPP is reluctant to restore the judges as it fears the deposed chief justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, might challenge an amnesty on corruption charges granted to Zardari and other PPP leaders last year.
 
The two parties are also at loggerheads over who should be the next president to replace Musharraf, who resigned last week when the coalition threatened to impeach him.
 
The PPP is proposing Zardari, but Sharif's party says it wants the next president to come from one of Pakistan's smaller provinces and for the nomination to be a "consensus candidate".
 
With Musharraf's resignation, it was always on the cards that the makeshift coalition would start bickering. The PPP and the Muslim League-N have a long history of rivalry – Bhutto and Sharif both served two terms as prime minister in the 1990s.
 
The departure of Sharif's party from the coalition would not necessarily force an election as the PPP, the biggest party in parliament, should be able to muster enough support to remain in government.
 
In any case, the PPP would be nervous of new elections as Sharif has won much popular support for his stand on the judges. Sharif told the newspaper that Zardari had assured him the judges would be reinstated within 24 hours of Musharraf's impeachment.
 
"We supported him on impeachment. It's now his turn to support us on the reinstatement of judges.

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