On Wednesday, Pakistani police detained 11 alleged Islamist militants, “including eight in connection with a suicide attack on a navy college that marked the latest in a wave of deadly bombings in Pakistan since the elections,” the Associated Press reported. Yesterday, two suicide bombers attacked the Pakistan Navy War College in Lahore, killing six and wounding 23. Pakistan’s Daily Times reported, “According to intelligence sources, a closed-circuit camera focused on NWC’s gate recorded the first suicide bombing in its entirety. They said the explosion caused the camera’s lens to break, due to which the second and third blasts were not recorded.” Capital City Police Officer Malik Muhammad Iqbal said the bombers targeted NWC’s back entrance, adding that the first bomber rushed in the back entrance and blew himself up as the gate was being opened for two officials. According to Dawn newspaper, the second bomber, riding a motorcycle, then entered the college premises and detonated his explosives in the parking lot. Dawn added, “The second blast was so powerful that three cars, two coaches, an ambulance and two buses caught fire.” The AP reported today that eight of those arrested in connection with the bomb blast were members of “outlawed” Sunni militant organizations, but provided few other details.
Tuesday’s blast occurred as President Musharraf met with the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen to discuss the regional security situation and possible counterterrorism strategies. News outlets have recently reported that the U.S. is planning to send two dozen personnel to Pakistan this year to train elements of the Pakistani military in counterinsurgency warfare and intelligence gathering techniques. A U.S. embassy spokesperson said Mullen also had two meetings with Chief of Army Staff General Kayani.
An article in today’s NY Times discussed the continuing opposition to Musharraf, reporting, “Energized by their victory two weeks ago, members of the incoming Parliament are questioning with new vigor Mr. Musharraf’s continuation in office.” The news agency added, “The president may not be comfortable with what he sees coming. Even though the Pakistan People’s Party and its partners have said Mr. Musharraf’s removal is not their first concern, opposition to him remains the underlying theme of politics here.” Senator Raja Zafar ul-Haq, the chairman of the PML-N, told the Times, “That is why the country is not settled… There are indications the presidency is trying to create hitches between those forming the government.” So far, the election results for all but 10 National Assembly seats have been confirmed, and the PPP will officially lead the new government. Makhdoom Amin Fahim, the Vice-Chairman of the party and the PPP’s longest serving member of parliament, will most probably be appointed the country’s Prime Minister. The coalition agreement between the PPP, the PML-N, and the ANP is being established. The parties are currently working towards their pledge of restoring the judiciary, and have formed a legal committee to work out the details.
However, despite this progress, the presence of Musharraf in the government still presents a major obstacle for the parties in power. According to the Times, “Mr. Musharraf, much weakened since removing his uniform and since his political party sustained a resounding defeat at the polls, nevertheless retains one powerful weapon. Under controversial constitutional amendments, he has the power to dissolve Parliament and dismiss the government. He also has the right to appoint and remove the top officials of the armed forces.” Although a vote to impeach the president remains unlikely, it is said that Musharraf may resign if the chief justice is reinstated, “because that would reopen the question of his eligibility to be president and the legality of his suspension of the Constitution in November.” The same would occur if lawmakers vote to remove his powers to dissolve the Parliament – rather than accept a diminished role, Musharraf would step down. The question is – when? How long will this period of purgatory for the President last? [Image from Daily Times]