ISLAMABAD, April 29: Interior Minister Aftab Ahmad Khan Shrpao, who survived a suicide attack in Charsadda on Saturday, has said preliminary investigation has revealed that tribal militant Abdullah Mehsud was behind the attack.
Mr Sherpao told reporters after a meeting with Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz at his residence here on Sunday night that investigations had revealed he was the main target of the attack. However, he said he would not restrict his movement and would attend a public meeting in Mansehra on Tuesday.
About the identity of the suicide bomber, he said it would be premature to say who he was and which group he belonged to. “But preliminary investigations have revealed that the attack was committed by a suicide bomber of Abdullah Mehsud.”
It may be mentioned here that Mehsud, 29, earlier fought for the Taliban against the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. He has declared ‘jihad’ against President Gen Pervez Musharraf and has threatened the government that thousands of his suicide bombers are ready for attacks across the country. He lost a leg in a landmine explosion a few days before the Taliban captured Kabul in September 1996. Mehsud, whose real name is Noor Alam, belongs to the Mehsud tribe that inhabits an area in South Waziristan along the Afghanistan border.
Mr Sherpao said the head of the suicide bomber found at the blast site had been sent to the National Forensic Laboratory in Islamabad for DNA tests.
He said 27 of the victims of the attack had been identified.
Answering a question about security arrangements for the coming general election, the minister said there would be no restrictions on holding public meetings. “However, it would be the responsibility of political parties to have their own security plan.” He said the government could not provide security to each and every person attending a public meeting and it would be the responsibility of political workers to make their own security arrangements for such meetings during electioneering. He said he himself had been saved by some of his political workers who formed a human shield around him and some them died in the blast.
The minister blamed the provincial MMA government for the suicide attack, saying that enforcement of the standard operating procedure, framed by the federal government to foil suicide bombings, was the responsibility of the provincial government.
He said President Musharraf, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and leaders of different countries, including Turkish and
Afghan interior ministers, had contacted him to enquire after his health and express sympathy.
The minister said the explosion had ruptured his eardrums and affected his hearing. “I also received injuries on the leg and hand.” He said he was four yards away from the suicide attacker and his survival in the attack was not less than a ‘miracle’.
“During my life I have survived three incidents – first, during school life when I fell from the roof of the school building; second, when I had a car accident during my service in the army; and third, the suicide attack,” he said.
Our Peshawar Bureau adds: Mr Sherpao on Sunday vowed that he would continue his political struggle for the establishment of social justice, real democracy, religious tolerance, the rule of law and prosperity of the people despite all odds created by “evil forces”.
Speaking to the people, who visited the People’s House on Sunday, to enquire after his health, Mr Sherpao said he was saddened by the death of Pakistan People’s Party workers and other innocents who had come to listen to him at the public meeting at the Koroona Station on Saturday.
He said it was a great tragedy for him, because he had always stressed for peaceful struggle and exhorted his party workers to oppose violent politics.
He said he was the target of a suicide bomber who exploded himself some feet away from him at the conclusion of the public meeting. But his political comrades, who were party assets, sacrificed their lives, Mr Sherpao added.
Mr Sherpao, who is president of his own faction of the Pakistan People’s Party, said in the past his elder brother, Hayat Mohammad Khan Sherpao, had sacrificed his life in the political struggle against evil and exploitative forces.
He said it would be premature to place responsibility of the incident on any quarter but the government was well aware of the sinister plot.
He said the time of death was fixed for every Muslim and being a Muslim he believed that no one could take his life unless the Almighty desired it.
He reiterated that he would not compromise with terrorists and extremists who were trying to enforce their darkest agenda in the country.
Later, Mr Sherpao visited the Lady Reading Hospital and inquired about the health of the injured who had been admitted there after the bomb blast in the public meeting.
Talking to journalists, he said he would not politicize the issue as it was a tragedy for him.
He said it was a disservice to religion to kill innocent people for nothing.
It may be recalled here that Mr Sherpao was hit by a shrapnel and seen limping when he entered the hospital. After the explosion his hearing was also impaired.