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Bid on Shaukat Aziz's life; 7 killed

Last updated on: July 30, 2004 23:29 IST

Pakistan Prime Minister-designate Shaukat Aziz on Friday night survived a suicide bomb attack on his election campaign in which seven people, including his driver, were killed and more than 25 injured at a place 55 km from Islamabad.

A suicide bomber with explosives strapped around his body, struck the convoy of 55-year-old Aziz, currently the Finance Minister, when he was leaving after an election rally at Fateh Jang.

The dead included the suicide bomber.

State-run PTV said two explosions were heard near the convoy of Aziz, which were apparently carried by a suicide bomber.

Geo TV said seven persons were killed and over 25 injured in the attack which came on a day when the government announced the arrest of a top al-Qaeda member wanted by FBI.

Secretary of ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q) Mushahid Hussain said he spoke to Aziz over the phone and found him to "calm, collected and composed" after the attack.

In fact, PTV showed the picture of Aziz after the  incident and he said, "I had a providential escape."

Aziz, a member of the Senate, said the attack would not deter him from carrying on his bid to get elected to the Lower House next month and his determination to serve Pakistan has been further strengthened.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tonight sent a message of concern, support and sympathy to Aziz.

Asked who could be responsible for the attack, Hussain blamed it on Islamic militant groups saying the same forces which had attacked President Musharraf last year using the same tactics.

Musharraf survived three suicide attacks, two in a day on the road between Islamabad and Rawalpindi in December last year.

Investigations revealed that the attacks were carried out by the members of the banned militant group Jaish-e-Muhammad and its allied groups.

Aziz, a former Citibank Vice-President who is credited with turning the Pakistani economy, is currently contesting byelections from two National Assembly seats, Attock in Pujban and Tharparker in southern Sindh to get elected to the Lower House. Opposition Parties fielded their candidates to contest against Aziz.

He is currently a Senator and Pakistan constitution stipulates that that the Prime Minister should be a member of the National Assembly. He nominated to succeed Hussain, who took over last month after the sudden resignation of Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali. 

The attack followed the announcement early today that Pakistan had arrested Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian on the FBI's most wanted list who is wanted in the 1998 twin embassy bombings in East Africa.

K J M Varma in Islamabad
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