Peshawar/Islamabad, Mar.12 (ANI): Even as the situation across Pakistan's political landscape is taking a turn for the worse which each succeeding day, a minister of the North West frontier Province (NWFP) Government survived an attempt on his life on Wednesday.
Sources said that unknown assailants opened fire on senior minister and Awami National Party (ANP) leader Bashir Bilour, but he escaped unharmed. However, three passersby -- a woman and her two children -- were less fortunate and died in the firing.
A house and the motorcycle that was used by the attackers to launch their assassination bid were completely destroyed.
Police said the attackers blew themselves up when the house they had barricaded themselves in was surrounded by police.
Family sources said Bilour, was inaugurating a development project in his constituency when the assailants fired on him.
Security personnel pushed the minister into the vehicle and rushed him to his residence, witnesses said.
There was complete chaos at the Peshawar hospital as the three bodies were brought in for a post-mortem. The husband of the dead women was completely overwrought by his tragedy, and wept profusely.
President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani condemned the assassination bid on Bilour.
In a message from Tehran where he is currently on an official visit, Zardari strongly condemned the attack on the ANP leader.
He and Gilani both said the government would bring the perpetrators of the reprehensible attack to justice.
They said such attacks would not weaken resolve of the government to fight against terrorism and extremism, which is posing a threat to fabric of Pakistani society.
Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports said that the Pakistan Government has ordered the arrest of key opposition leaders -- Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif and Imran Khan, besides several others, which it sees as spearheading the proposed "Long March" of lawyers and citizenry from Karachi to Islamabad to demand the restoration of the sacked judiciary and restoration of a credible democratic government.
The federal government, for all practical purposes, is on a collision course with both the lawyers and the opposition.
Pakistan's Information and Broadcasting Minister Sherry Rehman was quoted by agencies as saying that:" We feel that under the prevailing situation, this (crackdown on the opposition) was the last option available to us."
"We (the government) have been pushed against the wall. For the past week, we have been repeatedly hearing calls for civil disobedience, agitation and rebellion. This is neither in the interest of the country nor in the interest of the people. It is our esponsibility to try and prevent this in whatever way possible," she added.
So far, close to 300 opposition activists have been detained from various parts of Pakistan. The Chief of Army Staff, General Asfaq Parvez Kayani has also met Prime Minister Gilani to discuss the emerging situation. It is reported that he has told Gilani that the armed forces may have to step should the crisis go out of control.
Protesters' convoys of cars and buses are due to set off from Sindh and Baluchistan despite government bans on rallies.
The rally is due to reach Islamabad on Monday and organisers hope to hold a sit-in outside parliament. But the government has said the rally will not be allowed in the city centre.
The political crisis has also affected the functioning of the country's bourses in recent days and the main stock index in Karachi ended 1.8 percent lower on Wednesday. (ANI)