QUETTA, Pakistan — A bomb tore through a bus of female university students in southwestern Pakistan today, killing 11, officials said. As family and friends gathered at the hospital another blast went off, followed by a flurry of bullets that sent bystanders running for cover.
The violence in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan, came hours after militants destroyed a historic house elsewhere in the province that at one time was used by the country’s founder.
No one claimed responsibility for the multiple attacks today that highlighted the violence that has continued to plague the sparsely populated province. Baluch nationalists pushing for more say in the province’s future, Taliban militants and violent sectarian groups all have a presence in the region.
At least 19 other students were wounded when the bomb went off near the bus for a women’s university, said police officer Mir Zubair Mahmood. Television footage of the bus showed a blackened hulk with twisted pieces of metal and articles of women’s clothing strewn about.
The second blast occurred at a hospital where the dead and wounded were taken later today. The police chief and the chief secretary of the province had arrived at the hospital when the blast went off in a corridor of the hospital’s emergency room, said Fayaz Sumbal, a senior police officer in Quetta. Sumbal said at least four people were wounded.
The blast was followed by bursts of gunfire but it was not clear whether the firing was the work of militants or security officials. Images on Pakistani television showed people running from the hospital building into a parking lot filled with ambulances. Some people appeared to be taking cover behind the vehicles.
The destruction of the historic house associated with Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who’s referred to by Pakistanis as Quaid-e-Azam or “great leader,” outraged people across Pakistan. Jinnah lived in the house before his death in 1948, a year after he led Pakistan to independence.
Attackers on motorcycles planted bombs at the 19th century residence in the mountain resort town of Ziarat, which then started a fire, said senior police officer Asghar Ali Yousufzai.
Three bombs exploded, triggering the blaze that destroyed the building, Yousufzai said. The attackers also shot dead a police guard outside the residency, which had been turned into a museum about Jinnah.
Police found six unexploded explosive devices hours later after firefighters extinguished the fire, Yousufzai said.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the attack in a statement and expressed his sorrow over the policeman’s death.
The wooden building was constructed in the late 19th century. Pakistan’s founder spent his last two months or so there, and the building was serving as a museum with Jinnah’s belonging and other historical artifacts on display.
There had been no previous threat to the historical monument, the chief secretary of the province said on television.
“This tragedy happened which is a huge national loss,” said Babar Fateh Yaqoo. “The people of Ziarat are protesting over this incident.”
Ziarat is about 75 miles north of Quetta.
Meanwhile, former Pakistan ruler Pervez Musharraf has pleaded not guilty in a case involving his decision to fire senior judges, including the chief justice of the Supreme Court, while he was in power. The prosecution says his actions in the case amounted to terrorism.
A lawyer for Musharraf, Ilyas Siddiqi, said the not guilty plea came during a hearing today at the ex-general’s house which has served as a jail for the former Pakistani leader. The judge read out the charges against Musharraf who then entered his plea.
It is the latest development in Musharraf’s legal troubles since returning to Pakistan in March after living in exile for four years. He took power in a 1999 coup and ruled for nearly a decade before he was forced to step down because of growing discontent with his rule, especially among the legal community because of his decision to dismiss the judges.
He returned to Pakistan in March, intending to stand for elections, but was disqualified. In addition to the judges’ case, he faces charges in the assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto and in the killing of a Baluch nationalist.