Muslim leaders attended a rare summit in Pakistan yesterday after militant attacks killed 36 people across the country in some of the deadliest violence claimed by the Taliban for months.
The string of attacks on Shia Muslims and police and troops underscored the immense security challenge in a country where Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked extremists bitterly oppose the US-allied government.
Twenty-three people were killed and 62 wounded overnight in Rawalpindi, the twin city of summit venue Islamabad, where Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan were among the summit guests.
Police said a suicide bomber struck a procession of Shia Muslims who were commemorating the holy month of Muharram, which is frequently targeted by sectarian extremists in Pakistan.
Police used lamps and torches to work through the night and confirmed the final death toll after daybreak. Eight children were among the wounded.
It was the deadliest bombing in Pakistan since 29 people were killed in the north-western district of Khyber on June 16 and the worst attack on Shia since February 17, when a suicide bomber killed 31 people in north-western Kurram.
The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, reports AFP. It also claimed an explosion Wednesday that killed two people near a Shia mosque in Karachi, and attacks targeting security forces in the northwest which officials said left five police dead.
In two other attacks for which no one claimed responsibility, militants attacked a police post yesterday on the outskirts of the north-western city of Peshawar, killing one police official and abducting another.
In the southwestern city of Quetta Wednesday an army vehicle escorting children home from school was targeted, killing four soldiers and a woman.
Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan, referring to the suicide bombing, told AFP that Shias are “defiling the Prophet”.
Pakistan has been determined that yesterday’s Developing Eight summit will present a different image of the country as it gathers together Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Nigeria, Malaysia, Turkey and Pakistan to promote trade.
The summit opened more than three hours late with an address from Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan intended to hand over chairmanship of the D8 to Pakistan.
Among nations in the D8, which was founded in Istanbul in 1997, Nigeria is the only member which is not majority-Muslim. Its population is roughly divided between Muslims and Christians.
Islamabad has said it wants the summit to strengthen its international standing and help “remove misconceptions (about the country) created in a section of international media”.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is not attending the summit.
She cancelled the visit three days after Pak Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar had come on a short to Dhaka and invited Hasina to attend the summit.
PM’s International Affairs Adviser Gowher Rizvi on Wednesday left Dhaka to represent the country at the D-8 Summit.
Also, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi — who was thanked by the US for helping to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas — bowed out of the talks as his office said he would now stay home to monitor the truce.
Source: The Daily Star