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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 December 2006, 13:02 GMT
Pakistan agent held over 'bomb'
By Syed Shoaib Hasan
BBC News, Karachi

Site of October blast in Peshawar
Peshawar has seen a number of recent deadly bombings
A Pakistani civilian intelligence agent accused of planting a bomb at the house of North West Frontier Province's chief minister has been handed to police.

Officers arrested the man after he was spotted throwing an object into a bin outside the residence on 5 December.

The man, identified as junior Intelligence Bureau official Mohammad Tufail, was later removed from police custody by a senior intelligence agent.

His arrest follows recent unexplained and deadly bomb attacks in the city.

It has also sparked a major row between the NWFP provincial government, which is run by a coalition of hardliner Islamic parties, and the federal authorities in Islamabad.

'Misunderstanding'

According to the arresting policemen, the metal object recovered from the rubbish bin outside Frontier House was seven inches long, one inch thick and labelled "high explosive".

This was an attempt by the federal government to show how bad the law and order situation is in NWFP, but their designs have been exposed
NWFP Chief Minister Akram Durrani

The detainee, later identified as agent Tufail, was taken to a nearby police station and charged under the explosives act.

But within an hour of being taken into custody, agent Tufail was released when Intelligence Bureau (IB) joint director Zafarullah Khan came and took him away, provincial police officials on duty said.

Mr Khan also removed the alleged explosive device and later tried to play down events in an interview with a local paper.

He claimed the incident had been "a misunderstanding" and denied explosives had been involved - suggesting instead that agent Tufail had actually thrown a packet of biscuits into the bin.

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The provincial government, however, is taking a much more serious view of the matter, accusing the federal government of a conspiracy aimed at undermining it.

"This was an attempt by the federal government to show how bad the law and order situation is in NWFP, but their designs have been exposed," Chief Minister Akram Durrani said.

On Wednesday, the NWFP assembly passed a resolution demanding the federal government hand over both agent Tufail and joint director Khan "for exemplary punishment".

The federal government called the move an over-reaction.

It also says the incident was a misunderstanding and has set up a joint team, comprising both provincial and federal officials, to investigate.

Bomb blasts

NWFP has seen a number of attacks in recent months, heightening tensions between the provincial and federal governments.

One blast at an army training facility in November killed 44 personnel.

Militants were widely believed to have carried out the attack in retaliation for a missile strike on a religious school the week before which the army said killed 80 militants.

It is not clear who is behind the bombings in Peshawar, the most serious of which left at least six people dead in October.

The same month rockets were found near the federal parliament building in Islamabad.

This is not the first time that the Intelligence Bureau has found itself accused of acting against an elected government.

In 1989, under an operation codenamed Midnight Jackals, it attempted to unseat then Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto by buying off her MPs.

The Intelligence Bureau's primary task is ensuring domestic security in Pakistan, but a lot remains unknown or unclear about its activities.

It has in the past been accused of opening the mail of government critics, phone-tapping and harassing opposition politicians and activists.


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