Saturday, February 16, 2008

37 39 killed in massive suicide attack in Pakistan

At least 37 people, mostly supporters of slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's Pakistani Peoples Party, were killed Saturday when an explosives-laden car was driven into the midst of a rally and detonated on the last day of campaigning before Monday's scheduled elections.

The attack took place in Parachinar, in the volatile North-West Frontier where Islamic fundamentalist militants have gained strength in recent months.

The elections scheduled for Monday will take place under a cloud of suspicion after Human Rights Watch released an audiotape last week that they claim catches the countries Attorney General reassuring an unknown party on the other end of the line that massive vote rigging would assure that the elections went Musharraf's way. Ms. Bhutto's widower, Asif Ali Zardari, who assumed leadership of her party after she was slain condemned the attack "with all the spirit of democracy...We still ask people to stay calm because this is again their way of making us lose track and give up the path of democracy," he said. He also promised massive street protest if they suspect the elections are tampered with.

In a televised speech on Saturday, President Musharraf said Pakistan would have a "stable, democratically elected government" which would be used to "ensure a successful fight against terrorism and extremism", and he cautioned against protests if the election process is perceived as less than fair.

While Musharraf is not standing for election Monday - the upcoming vote is for the Parliament, he was 'reelected' to a third term in October - a parliament packed with hostile political opponents could spell trouble for the president and his authority.

Musharraf resigned from the Army last fall after the countries supreme court validated his election. The election Monday is seen as a signal moment in Pakistan's transition from military to civilian rule.

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