Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Blast in Islamabad

Pakistan: The Blast in Islamabad
Jul 17, 2007: STRATFOR


A large explosion took place July 17 in Islamabad, Pakistan, at the site of rally where the country's suspended chief justice, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, was supposed to deliver a speech. While the details are still murky, it appears that jihadists trying to exacerbate a crisis of governance in the aftermath of the Red Mosque operation could be behind the blast. Regardless of who was behind the attack, it will lead to unrest from the legal community as well the opposition parties.


At least 12 people are dead and some 50 wounded following a blast in an upscale area of the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. The explosion occurred near the stage where the country's suspended chief justice, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, was scheduled to speak at a rally. The procession bringing the top jurist to the venue of the rally near the District Bar Association was rerouted to the Supreme Court building. Eyewitnesses are reporting that the attack was a suicide bombing.

Jihadists who have been staging attacks in the North-West Frontier Province and Federally Administrated Tribal Areas in retaliation for the security operation against the Red Mosque likely are behind this blast. By staging an attack on the legal community, the jihadists want to escalate the unrest in the country in order to stave off the military operations the government has begun in the northwest. The jihadists saw that the government was moving to defuse the legal crisis by having the Supreme Court reinstate Chaudhry, and this attack was meant to torpedo that move. Launching an attack where Chaudhry was supposed to speak also serves the jihadists' purpose of arousing suspicions among the legal community and political opposition forces that the government was behind the attack, thereby further crippling Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's control at home.

The identity of the actual perpetrators notwithstanding, many will blame the government -- and greater unrest from Pakistan's legal and political forces will result. This could add to the militancy in the country, which could then lead the government to impose emergency rule. This, in turn, would create even higher tensions and anti-Musharraf sentiments in the country. Events are rapidly moving to a point where Musharraf's grip on power is slipping, and he could be forced to step down ahead of his plans for parliamentary and presidential polls.

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