Pakistan blames US raids for hotel bombing

Pakistan President pleads with Bush to reverse policy as BA cancels all flights to country

The Pakistani President, Asif Ali Zardari, will plead with President George Bush today to change a policy which is being blamed for one of his country's worst terrorist atrocities.

"We hope the US will change policy because this is what is needed," said Pakistan's ambassador to the UK, Wajid Shamsul Hassan, after 53 people were killed and more than 250 injured in the bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad. He argued that the Bush administration's decision to allow cross-border incursions from Afghanistan into Pakistan, including by ground forces on at least one occasion, had been counterproductive "because they are not killing high-value targets, they are killing civilians".

Mr Zardari's talks with President Bush in New York, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, have been scheduled amid heightened security fears in the wake of the bombing.

Yesterday BA cancelled all flights to Pakistan as a precaution, although a spokesman said there was no direct threat against the airline, which operates six flights each week. A number of foreign embassies and businesses in the country are also said to be re-examining the security situation.

In the north-western city of Peshawar, Abdul Khaliq Farahi, Afghanistan's designated ambassador to Pakistan, was kidnapped and his driver killed by unidentified gunmen.

Overnight on Sunday there was further tension on the border when Pakistani troops reportedly fired shots to warn off two US helicopters that were attempting to cross into Pakistan at Alwara Mandi in North Waziristan.

A senior Pakistani official claimed that Pakistan's senior leaders were to have attended a dinner at the Marriott Hotel but changed their venue to the Prime Minister's house just hours before the massive bomb devastated the building.

The Interior Ministry chief, Rehman Malik, said the decision to move the location of the dinner for the President and Prime Minister had been kept secret but did not provide details of why the switch was made.

However, it later emerged that the invitations to the Prime Minister's residence were sent out 10 days ago.

"The dinner was never going to be at the Marriott," said Talat Hussain, a political analyst and director of current affairs at Aaj TV. "We were all issued invitations well in advance that it was to take place at the Prime Minister's house. And by claiming that they had managed to move the political leadership to another location, it asks the question, if there is a security threat, is it only for VIPs? Are the rest of us children of a lesser god?"

Mr Malik could not be reached for further clarification last night.

Who carried out Saturday night's attack remains unclear. Mr Malik had previously said the hotel was attacked by Taliban or al-Qa'ida militants simply because it was a Western target.

But his remarks raise the question as to why – if the government had received intelligence that the Marriott might be attacked – was security at the hotel not immediately increased.

The attack on the hotel and the shockwaves it has sent through Pakistan are just the latest challenges confronting the country's civilian leadership and its recently elected president, Mr Zardari. Under pressure from the US, Mr Zardari, the widower of the former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, has vowed to continue the battle against Islamic militants operating in the country's tribal areas despite growing resentment inside Pakistan about interference from Washington.

Mr Hassan said that the Pakistan President had gained the support of Gordon Brown in opposing the US raids on Pakistani territory, during talks in London last week.

Mr Zardari is to chair the first meeting of the Friends of Pakistan – grouping the US, Britain and the other G8 countries as well as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and China – in New York on Friday. Pakistan is looking for short-term help for economic measures to stimulate employment, and longer-term assistance for social development in deprived areas.

53

The number of people killed in suicide bomb attack on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee