Suicide bombings kill 19 as Musharraf misses court

Pakistan paramilitary troops at the scene of the bombing in Quetta, Baluchistan.  Picture: AP
Pakistan paramilitary troops at the scene of the bombing in Quetta, Baluchistan. Picture: AP
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Two bombings in Pakistan killed 19 people and wounded dozens yesterday as judges ordered former president Pervez Musharraf to appear in court to face charges of high treason or face arrest.

The explosions underscored Pakistan’s fragile security even as the government tries to negotiate a peace deal with Taleban militants based in the north-west tribal region.

In the south-west city of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, a bomb exploded near a bus, killing ten people and wounding 37, said Dr Ali Mardan at a local hospital.

Four were in critical condition, he said.

The bomb, carried on a bicycle, exploded when the bus drove by, police officer Abdur Razzak Cheema confirmed. Two vehicles carrying Pakistani troops had just passed, officer Cheema said.

Witness Bakht Mohammad, 27, said he was going to a market in a rickshaw when the bomb went off.

“I heard a big bang and then something hit, wounding my leg, back and both arms,” he said. “I was bleeding and the driver started reciting verses from the Koran.”

Baluchistan is home to separatists battling the state and sectarian groups who often attack minority Shiites. It is also believed to be home to many Afghan Taleban members.

In north-west Pakistan, a suicide attacker blew himself up yesterday near a police armoured vehicle about 12 miles south of the city of Peshawar, killing nine people and wounding 43, police officer Safdar Khan said.

One woman and a child were among the dead, he said.

Police officer Mohammad Faisal said most of the dead were civilians, though the blast wounded many police officers.

He said that police recently stepped up patrols in the area due to threats from militants from the nearby Khyber tribal region.

The Pakistani army has carried out several operations in Khyber in an effort to rid the area of militants.

One of the injured police officers, Tahir Shah, said the blast was so powerful that he felt it even inside the targeted armoured vehicle. “I am still feeling deaf,” he said. A ten-year-old boy, Bilal Khan, said he was selling popcorn on a cart in the bazaar when the attack took place.

“My cart turned over, and I fell on the ground. Something hit me in the legs,” he said.

No-one has claimed responsibility for either bombing.

The Pakistani Taleban, which operates throughout the north-west, is currently engaged in peace talks with the Islamabad government. The group has announced a ceasefire but attacks claimed by its splinter groups have continued during the negotiations.

Meanwhile, a Pakistani court issued another arrest warrant on Friday for former president Musharraf, although it gave him until 31 March to appear in court before the warrant would be carried out.

The legal proceedings in Musharraf’s high treason case started in December but the former general has only appeared once in court since then and still has not been formally charged. His arraignment had been expected to take place yesterday but Musharraf again failed to appear in court.

His lawyers cited security concerns for his non-appearance.

The treason case stems from Musharraf’s 2007 decision to declare a state of emergency and his firing of judges, many of whom are now back in office. He fled to self-imposed exile in London before returning last year.