Islamabad Marriott Attack: Parliament was the target


Sunday, September 21, 2008

By Muhammad Ahmad Noorani (The News)

ISLAMABAD: The Marriott attack was actually aimed at parliament where the entire civil and military leadership of the country had gathered, in violation of the security codes, but it was thwarted by the strict security arrangements.

Two security check-posts established on the Constitution Avenue saved the top civil and military leadership of Pakistan gathered in the Parliament House, listening to the first address by President Asif Ali Zardari, top security officials said.

The two security posts were installed on the Constitution Avenue, on the road leading to the Parliament House — one in front of the main gate of the federal secretariat and the other near the Prime Minister Secretariat. These two check-posts were in fact installed on Nov 3rd last, at the time of imposition of emergency. However, security checking at these posts remained tough and soft, depending on situation or intelligence reports.

According to the officials, the checking at these check posts was made very strict on Saturday in view of the presidential address and the presence of the whole national leadership in the Parliament House. These security check-posts were allowing only relevant people to move towards the house on the Constitution Avenue.

Advisor to the Prime Minister on Interior Rehman Malik, while talking to The News, revealed that his ministry had received two days ago information regarding suicide attack on the Parliament House at the time of the presidentís address. Rehman said the security of the capital was beefed up and the surroundings of the Parliament House were declared as red zone. He said that he and his experts believed that the truck which hit the Marriott on Saturday tried to enter in the red zone during the time of address of the president. “However, because of strict security measures the truck was barred to go towards the Parliament House,” Rehman said, adding: “This is our perception now that the terrorists had already set two targets, one direct and the other optional.î

Security personnel at the two check-posts were not allowing the vehicles to move towards the Parliament House, diverting them to other roads.

Rehman Malik also revealed that the truck was carrying construction materials, adding the terrorists made the best use of their mind, keeping in view the intense construction works going on in the area. They used such a truck to deceive the security officials. He, however, admitted that checking of trucks carrying construction materials was included in the security measures.

He said that first there was a small blast, perhaps to disperse the security personnel. ìAnd then there was the major blast, the worst of its kind in the capitalís history,î he said, adding not less than 1,000 Kg of explosives was used in the explosion.

When asked that when his ministry was mindful of a possible terrorist activity why such a great security lapse took place, Rehman said it was very hard to deal with suicide bombers all around the world. He maintained that such blasts were being even made in countries like India and the UK, adding security agencies were unable to control such activities despite their all out efforts.

When asked about the weaknesses in the relief operations, Rehman defended his ministry by saying that all available resources were used and the Army rescue team was called. He said though the Pakistan Army had fire-rescue helicopters but those couldn’t be operated during night.

Secretary Interior Kamal Shah, during a chat with this correspondent, said that besides the Islamabad police his ministry had deputed the Frontier Constabulary, the Rangers, intelligence agenciesí officials, bomb disposal squads and even the Pakistan Army was at disposal. Kamal said that the whole Islamabad, including areas like Shakar Paryaan and all hilltops were under strict security through 18 different security check-posts. He said that August 14th security arrangements were in place.

Kamal Shah, while justifying the security lapse, said it is our culture that at the time of Iftar the security arrangements automatically become a bit soft. He said that the terrorists had no religion as they hit some moments after Iftar, exploiting the time.

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Who is responsible? Al-Qaeda, Taliban, Jihadis, Jangi Junoonis (war maniacs), Sectarian groups, rogue elements in ISI and other intelligence agencies.

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