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02 March 2024

Pakistan probes assassination of top general as Musharraf battles exit talk

By Agencies



Security agencies launched a joint investigation into the suicide bombing that killed the army’s surgeon general, the most senior military official to be assassinated since Pakistan joined the US war on terror.

Lt. Gen. Mushtaq Baig was killed Monday when a bomber blew himself up next to his car after it stopped at a traffic light on a busy road in Rawalpindi, a city just south of the capital.

A team comprising senior officials of the Federal Investigation Agency, the police and the army are probing the attack, Interior Secretary Kamal Shah told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

He said the investigating team will look into all aspects including any foreign involvement.

“Let the investigators move a little. Then they can pinpoint who could be behind the attack,” Shah said.

So far the government has only blamed people who were “damaging the cause of Islam,” a reference to religious extremists.

Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said Baig had been the most senior army officer killed in an attack since President Pervez Musharraf sided with Washington against Al Qaida and the Taliban after the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

Suicide bombers have struck repeatedly in Rawalpindi, where the army has its headquarters, mostly targeting security forces. A gun and suicide attack also killed opposition leader Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi on December 27.
Musharraf himself survived at least three attempts on his life before
he retired as army chief in November.

He is now fighting for his political survival after February 18 parliamentary elections in which his allies were defeated soundly. Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party finished first.

A presidential spokesman dismissed suggestions from three US senators that Musharraf might beat a dignified retreat from power.
Musharraf was elected to a new five-year presidential term last year by Pakistani lawmakers, “not by any senator from the United States,” spokesman Rashid Qureshi said Monday on Dawn News television.
“So I don’t think he needs to respond to anything that is said by these people.”

Musharraf received a small boost with Bhutto’s widower, Asif Ali Zardari, making conciliatory gestures.

Zardari, co-chairman of the PPP, was quoted in The Wall Street Journal as suggesting he would seek a working relationship with Musharraf because the victorious coalition does not have a two-thirds majority in Parliament to impeach the president.

“Our main objective is to work for the smooth transition to democracy,” Zardari said.

“We want to unify the country, which is facing some very serious challenges. We have to establish democracy and for that we need unity not confrontation,” he said.

The PPP won 87 out of 272 seats in Parliament while former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s party won 67. (AP)