Security for Musharraf creates tensions

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Islamabad (Dawn/ANN) - New details on threats against former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf, who is soon expected to visit Islamabad, have required the police and intelligence agencies to increase security preparations.

The threats and preparations have, however, also exposed tensions in the state security apparatus.

Musharraf's presence in Pakistan may have already led to potential risks, with people seeking revenge for military operations in the country's tribal areas and the Lal Masjid operation of 2007.

Intelligence reports suggest that two groups of suicide bombers had been sent to attack the former military ruler; the former was sent to Karachi, and if they failed, the second group was to "make an attempt" at Benazir Bhutto International Airport.

Citing the fatal December 2007 gun-and-bomb attack on former prime minister Benazir Bhutto's rally at Liaquat Bagh, the intelligence agency responsible for providing security clearances for "VIP and VVIP movements" has not given local police permission for a public gathering in the twin cities.

The police have been advised to prevent any public gathering when Musharraf arrives at Benazir Bhutto International Airport.

City Police Officer Azhar Hameed Khokhar said that Rawalpindi police were taking "no chances" with the former president's safety and public law and order.

"Security has been tightened, particularly at the airport," he said, adding that "anyone planning such an act will not be able to carry it off".

Intelligence officials will also be deployed along the airport road, between the airport and Islamabad Expressway.

Islamabad police have consistently maintained that they oppose Musharraf's visit, feeling that it presents unnecessary risks both for Musharraf himself and for the city.

The interior ministry has added to that feeling by demanding a contingent of 350 personnel and six vehicles, including a bulletproof car, for the former president's security.

"We cannot arrange for such a large contingent," said an official from the Central Police Office.

While personnel from the reserves will be deployed along the roads, the CPO has asked the interior ministry to contact the Rangers and Frontier Constabulary regarding Musharraf's security force.

The ministry's demand was a familiar one. Previously, they had asked the police to provide sizable contingents for the security of former prime ministers Raja Pervez Ashraf and Yousaf Raza Gilani.

In that case as well, police cited a shortage of manpower, and the Security Wing later collected 20 personnel from different installations for the premiers' security.

COPYRIGHT: ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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