RAWALPINDI, Oct 4: A major blast in the city’s biggest public park, in close proximity to President Gen Pervez Musharraf’s official residence, sent a wave of panic and fear across the country on Wednesday night.
Within minutes of the explosion, a heavy contingent of the army, elite police commandos and intelligence officials reached Ayub Park, blocking its three entrances and disallowing anyone from entering or leaving the place.
Some big army vehicles, including trucks having the facility to collect and carry unexploded bombs, were seen going inside the park, indicating the presence of unspecified amount of explosive material in it.
However, what remained unclear till the filing of this report was whether the material collected from the place was a bomb or a missile.
A security official, requesting not to be named, said that the explosion was caused by one bomb but a huge quantity of others explosives failed to detonate.
As rumours gripped the country of another abortive attempt on the life of a high-profiled personality, the military was quick to dispel the impression.
“Nothing is related to the president or Army House,” military spokesman Maj-Gen Shaukat Sultan told Reuters.
But what continued to fuel speculations was the security forces’ decision not to divulge information about the nature of the explosion.
The officials deployed at the park refused to give any information about the casualties, despite the fact that relatives of dozens of people trapped in the park remained gathered outside the main entrance till late in the night.
“Our son works at a stall in the park and the army officials are neither telling us anything about him nor letting us in,” a woman, Mrs Fayyaz, told reporters.
Local residents who had gathered outside the park told Dawn that the blast occurred at around 10 pm. The explosion was so powerful that it could be heard at places several kilometers away from the park, said one person. Windowpanes of several nearby houses were smashed.
Ayub Park, named after the first military ruler of the country, is located in a high security zone of the garrison city of Rawalpindi. In its proximity are several other buildings of the army and a golf course where senior officers play in the evening.
President Musharraf’s residence and the Army House are only a few hundred yards away from the place of the explosion.
Despite a strong denial by the army of the explosion’s links with the Army House or the president, people standing outside the park had continued to speculate about an abortive attempt to target the residence of the president and army chief.
One of the reasons was that the two previous attempts on the president’s life made in December 2003 took place not very far from this place.