Violence Mars Republic Day Ceremony in Pakistan
By Mahvish Akhtar, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)
Airports across Pakistan were put on high alert after a suicide blast in a hotel in Islamabad. On Friday January 26th 2007 a man blew himself up outside of the Marriott Hotel. He was trying to enter the hotel through the side door which was reserved for employees and workers only. When stopped by a Tariq Mehmood, a security guard, the man blew himself up killing 37 year old Mehmood as well.
This event took place hours before the Republic Day Function for India, in honor of the 58th Republic day of India, was scheduled to take place. The program was hosted by the High Commission of India. President Musharraf condemned the attacks and ordered full investigation about the culprits. However the function went on as per scheduled. Speeches were made by both sides on the importance of the peace process and on the fact that such events should not disrupt us from our main purpose which is peace and friendship. No motive was given for the attacks, but it the attack may have been intended to stop the peace talks.
Kamal Shah, the Interior Secretary, admitted that this took place because of â€œa security lapse.â€ However, he went on to say that it is very hard to catch a suicide terrorist attack. Investigators have put together an identikit through the help of some staff employees and are in the process of investigating the matter in detail.
â€œA bang shook the building. It threw us out of our seats. There was chaos all over the place,â€ said a man who was eating in a restaurant inside the hotel.
Upon hearing the blast, hotel visitors and guests started to pour out to see what was going on. Terrified and disoriented people started to move away from the hotel after the blast chaos settled.
The U.S embassy has asked Americans in Islamabad to be careful and avoid that area for some time. The British Foreign Office in London advised britons to stay away from places frequented by Westerners.
Pervez George, the Civil Aviation Authority spokesman, said airports for the whole country were put on alert in response to the Friday attack. He also said that this was a standard procedure after such events.
Security has been very tight, which means every car and person going into the airports is being thoroughly checked. â€œNo one is being exempted from body searches except the few who have been officially notified by the government and they too have to get their luggage searched manually,â€ Islamabad Airport Manager Ashfaq Sial said. Officials say that this high alert might continue for some time.
Meanwhile in New Delhi, President Vladmir Putin of Russia was the guest of honor in the Republic Day Parade. There was tight security and Putin and the president and prime minister of India were clothed in bulletproof vests. The President Abdul Kalam of India said on this historic day that he was confident India would become a developed nation before 2020, with no poverty and 100% literacy. â€œI visualize even before the year 2020 that a prosperous India is possible,â€ he added.