Pakistani minister survives assassination attempt

A Government minister who had repeatedly spoken out against the Pakistan Taliban narrowly escaped an assassination attempt after gunmen ambushed his vehicle in the heart of the capital.

In an attack that apparently underlines the continued ability of militants to strike after weeks of disarray following the killing of a senior leader, two gunmen travelling on motorbikes sprayed the official car of Hamid Saeed Kazmi with automatic fire. Pakistan’s religious affairs minister was hit in the leg but his driver was killed, in the most high-profile attack on an elected official in recent years.

“This is an attempt to demoralise the people of Pakistan and those Pakistanis who are countering the Taliban mindset,” said Farahnaz Ispahani, a spokeswoman for President Asif Ali Zardari. “But they will not succeed, the people and government are unified against this threat.”

The attack came a day after the government warned of Taliban threats against religious and political leaders. Mr Kazmi had himself received a flurry of death threats for speaking out openly against the Taliban’s brutality. The minister has been at the head of government efforts to rally religious opinion against the Taliban and had gathered an array of religious leaders to denounce militancy ahead of the army’s operation to clear militants from the Swat Valley.

Analysts said the attack appeared to have been the result of militants wishing to show their continued lethal abilities following the killing last month of Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, who was struck by a missile fired from a US drone. In the weeks following his death, there have reports of mounting confusion within the Taliban and of disagreement as to who should assume leadership of the loosely affiliated group of militant factions that had been headed by Mr Mehsud. There was also a degree of chest-beating from Pakistani politicians, claiming the Taliban had been mortally wounded.

It appears that Hakimullah Mehsud, a senior lieutenant of Baitullah Mehsud, has emerged as the new leader, though some intelligence sources in Pakistan are reportedly convinced he too is dead. Reporters who have been contacted by the new leader say they recognise his voice from previous interviews.

As such, while it is unclear when planning for yesterday’s attack may have begun, experts said the assault sent a strong message from militants wishing to display their continued ability to strike. “I think this is one way of projecting their power in the heart of the Pakistan,” said Imtiaz Gul, an analyst and author of a recently published book on Pakistan’s militants. “After two other attacks - there was a recent suicide bomb in Mingora and an attack in Khyber - they have now tried to show that they are still very much there.”

Talat Masood, a former army general turned analyst, said he had no doubts that Hakimullah Mehsud was still alive and was now heading the militants. “What they want to do is to prove they can still be ruthless,” he added.

Yesterday’s attack happened just minutes after Mr Kazmi had left his ministry and as his vehicle was passing through a sensitive area of Islamabad close to many official buildings, including the headquarters of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency.

It appears that the black car was fired upon from several directions, forcing it from the road. Bullets fired from the front pierced the windscreen and killed the driver, demobilising the vehicle. Blood was left smeared across the steering wheel and flecked onto the windscreen.

Meanwhile, the windows on either side of the backseat, where the minister had been sitting, were shot at repeatedly. Mr Kazmi was shot in the left leg, while his bodyguard has sustained serious injuries. Both were rushed off to the nearby Polytechnic Hospital where they were last night receiving treatment.

Mohammad Salahuddin, an employee at the religious affairs ministry, said he had rushed to the car in the aftermath of the attack and pulled out Mr Kazmi. “I saw a man running across the road and jumping on a motorcycle before speeding away, but I could not see his face, he told reporters..

In addition to raising fears about the ability of militants to strike at high-profile government targets, the attack on Mr Kazmi also exposed a glaring security lapse. Policemen at the scene said he had been travelling without his ministerial police escort. The gunmen had also been able to evade heavy security in the capital, mounting their attack and escaping without being stopped by any of Islamabad’s many checkpoints.

“The attackers wanted to score a point,” said Aftab Sherpao, a former interior minister who himself had survived two assassination attempts. “They wanted to show that even under these strict security measures in Islamabad they can still attack a federal minister.”

News
Alan Bennett has criticised the “repellent” reality shows which dominate our screens
tvBut he does like Stewart Lee
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
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

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits