Thursday, April 18, 2013

‘You will run again,’ Obama tells Boston at interfaith service

President Barack Obama said today that America stands with the city of Boston after the deadly terror bombing attacks at the Boston Marathon finish line on Monday. In a powerful, uplifting speech at an interfaith service at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Obama said he had come to join people to “pray and mourn and measure our loss. We also come today to reaffirm that the spirit of this city is undaunted and the spirit of this country shall remain undimmed.” “I’m here today on behalf of the American people with a simple message: Every one of us has been touched by this attack on your beloved city. Every one of us stands with you,” he said. Three people died and more than 170 were injured when two blasts were detonated near the finish line at about 2:50 p.m. Monday. A massive investigation is underway, but no arrests have been made yet.Obama, who traveled to the city on Air Force One this morning with his wife, Michelle, and members of the state’s congressional delegation, promised that whoever planted the bombs would be brought to justice. “Yes, we will find you,” he said. “And, yes, you will face justice. We will find you. We will hold you accountable, but, more than that, our fidelity to our way of life, to a free and open society, will only grow stronger — for God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity but one of power and love and self discipline.” He praised those who had rushed to aid the victims after the blasts, saying it sent a message to the attackers, whom he described as “these small stunted individuals who would destroy instead of build.” “This doesn’t stop us. And that’s what you’ve’ taught us, Boston. That’s what you’ve reminded us — to push, to not grow weary, to not get faint, even when it hurts. We finish the race. And we do that because of who we are and we do that because we know that somewhere around the bend, a stranger has a cup of water. Around the bend, somebody’s there to boost our spirits. On that toughest mile, just when we think we’ve hit a wall, someone will be there to cheer us on and pick up.” And he promised toward the end of the speech that the Boston Marathon would go on, as would the celebrations that have been held on the same streets for the city’s championship teams. “When the Sox, the Celtics, the Patriots, the Bruins are champions again – to the chagrin of New York and Chicago fans – the crowds will gather and watch a parade go down Boylston Street. And this time next year, on the third Monday in April, the world will return to this great American city to run harder than ever and to cheer even louder for the one hundred and eighteenth Boston marathon. Bet on it!’’ he thundered, receiving a standing ovation. Obama has spoken in the past to try to comfort communities in shock and mourning. He spoke after the mass murders at Fort Hood in 2009, Tucson in 2011, and Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn., in 2012. Obama also planned to meet with victims of the blast and their families and first responders, a White House spokesman said on Air Force One this morning. Obama, who spoke for about 20 minutes to a packed crowd of about 2,000, was one of a series of speakers at the service, which lasted for an hour and a half. The other speakers included Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, clergy, and Governor Deval Patrick and Mayor Thomas M. Menino. Menino pushed himself out of a wheelchair, grimacing at his broken leg, to talk about the strength of his beloved city. “I have never loved its people more than I do today,” Menino said this morning. “We are one Boston. Nothing can tear down the resilience of this city.” Patrick said the “cowardice unleashed on us” should not cause people to lose their faith in America’s civic ideals. “We have defined those ideals, through time and through struggle, as equality, opportunity, freedom and fair play. … And just as we cannot permit darkness and hate to triumph over our spiritual faith, so we must not permit darkness and hate to triumph over our civic faith. That cannot happen. And it will not.”

Up to 15 killed in Texas fertilizer plant explosion

Rescue workers searched the wreckage of a fertilizer plant on Thursday for survivors of a fiery explosion that killed as many as 15 people, injured more than 160 and leveled houses in a small Texas city. Three to four volunteer firefighters were among the missing following the explosion on Wednesday night, said Sgt. William Patrick Swanton of the Waco, Texas, police department. Firefighters had responded to a fire at the West Fertilizer Co before the 8 p.m. blast that rocked West, a town of 2,700 people about 20 miles north of Waco. The death toll remained estimated at five to 15 people, Swanton said at a news conference in Waco on Thursday. "That's a rough number," he said. "There are still firefighters missing," Swanton said. "They were actively fighting the fire at the time the explosion occurred." Rescuers are still in a "search and rescue" mode," he said. "That's good news to me, meaning that they're probably still getting injured people," Swanton said. "They have not gotten to the point of no return where they don't think that there's anybody still alive." A law enforcement official was found alive but in critical condition in a local hospital, Swanton said. President Barack Obama, who flew to Boston for a memorial service for victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, offered support and prayers to the victims in Texas. Witness Kevin Smith told CBS News he had just climbed the stairs to the second floor of his home when he felt the blast. "The house exploded. It was just a bright flash and a roar, I thought it was lightning striking the house," Smith said. "I felt myself flying through the air about 10 feet, and it took a second or two to realize that the roof had caved in on me so I knew it wasn't lightning." Light rain was falling and winds had picked up to 22 miles per hour Thursday morning, conditions that could complicate the recovery effort or prompt additional evacuations. "I've never seen anything like this," McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara said. "It looks like a war zone with all the debris." Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center in Waco admitted 28 of more than 100 people it treated, with five in the intensive care unit, said David Argueta, vice president of operations. The explosion came two days before the 20th anniversary of a fire in nearby Waco that engulfed a compound inhabited by David Koresh and his followers in the Branch Davidian sect, ending a siege by federal agents. About 82 members of the sect and four federal agents died at Waco. SEISMIC BLAST Ground motion from the blast, triggered by a fire of unknown origin at the plant, registered as a magnitude 2.1 seismic tremor and created a jolt felt 80 miles away in Dallas, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. The firefighters had been battling the fire and evacuating nearby houses and a nursing home for about 20 minutes before the explosion occurred. Texas Public Safety Department spokesman D.L. Wilson said about half the town, eight to 10 blocks, had been evacuated and that "we might even have to evacuate on the other side of town" if winds shift. Wilson said 50 to 75 houses were damaged by the explosion and fire, and a nearby 50-unit apartment complex had been reduced to "a skeleton standing up." Muska put the number of destroyed homes at between 60 and 80. Wilson said 133 people were evacuated from the nursing home, which was heavily damaged, but it was not known how many residents had been hurt. A middle school also was badly damaged. 'KIDS SCREAMING' Three hospitals in Waco and Dallas reported treating more than 160 injuries from the blast. "We are seeing a lot of lacerations and orthopedic-type injuries ... things you would expect in an explosion," said Argueta at Hillcrest Baptist. Jason Shelton, 33, a father of two who lives less than a mile from the plant, said he heard fire trucks heading toward the facility five minutes before the explosion and felt the blast as he stood on his front porch. "My windows started rattling and my kids screaming," Shelton said. "The screen door hit me in the forehead ... and all the screens blew off my windows." Governor Rick Perry said 21 National Guard members had been sent to help with emergency response efforts. Obama said federal emergency officials were monitoring the local and state response. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board said it is sending a "large investigation team" to the scene.

Obama: Gun lobby 'willfully lied'

The Senate Fails Americans

For 45 senators, the carnage at Sandy Hook Elementary School is a forgotten tragedy. The toll of 270 Americans who are shot every day is not a problem requiring action. The easy access to guns on the Internet, and the inevitability of the next massacre, is not worth preventing. Those senators, 41 Republicans and four Democrats, killed a bill on Wednesday to expand background checks for gun buyers. It was the last, best hope for meaningful legislation to reduce gun violence after a deranged man used semiautomatic weapons to kill 20 children and six adults at the school in Newtown, Conn., 18 weeks ago. A ban on assault weapons was voted down by 60 senators; 54 voted against a limit on bullet magazines. Patricia Maisch, who survived a mass shooting in Tucson in 2011, spoke for many in the country when she shouted from the Senate gallery: “Shame on you.” Newtown, in the end, changed nothing; the overwhelming national consensus to tighten a ridiculously lax set of gun laws was stopped cold. That’s because the only thing that mattered to these lawmakers was a blind and unthinking fealty to the whims of the gun lobby. The National Rifle Association once supported the expansion of background checks, but it decided this time that President Obama and gun-control advocates could not be allowed even a scintilla of a victory, no matter how sensible. That group, and others even more militant, wanted to make sure not one bill emerged from the Newtown shooting, and they got their way. A vast majority of Republicans meekly followed along, joined by a few nervous red-state Democrats, giving far more weight to a small, shrill and largely rural faction than to the country’s overwhelming need for safety and sanity. Guns had not been on the president’s campaign agenda, but, to his credit, he and Vice President Joseph Biden Jr. came up with a solid package of proposals after Newtown that would have reduced the number of dangerous weapons on the street and in the hands of criminals. Mr. Obama traveled the country to promote it in 13 speeches, and he has spent the last weeks unsuccessfully trying to pry senators out of the pocket of the gun lobby. The most important aspect of his proposal, in the eyes of many gun-control advocates, was the expansion of background checks, both because it closed an important loophole and because it seemed the easiest to pass. From 20 percent to 40 percent of all gun sales now take place without a background check, and the bill rejected on Wednesday would have required the check for buyers at gun shows, on the Internet and at other commercially advertised sales. It was sponsored by two pro-gun senators with the courage to buck the lobby, Joe Manchin III, a Democrat of West Virginia, and Patrick Toomey, a Republican of Pennsylvania. The critical need for this measure was illustrated by a report in The Times on Wednesday that showed how easy it is for criminals to buy weapons on the Internet without a look at their backgrounds. One widely popular Web site contains tens of thousands of private postings of gun sales, and The Times’s investigation found that many buyers and sellers were criminals. Some of the guns have been used to kill. A vote to continue this practice would be hard to explain to constituents, so lawmakers simply invented reasons to oppose background checks. Some insisted it would lead to a national gun registry, though the plain language of the bill prohibited that. Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma said it would raise taxes. Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona said it would require checks even when a gun sale is posted on an office bulletin board. (There’s nothing wrong with that, but it wouldn’t.) Mr. Obama, after the vote, said those who made these arguments had “willfully lied.” It’s now up to voters to exact a political price from those who defied the public’s demand, and Mr. Obama was forceful in promising to lead that effort. Wednesday was just Round 1, he said; the next step is to replace those whose loyalty is given to a lobby rather than the people. “Sooner or later, we are going to get this right,” he said. “The memories of these children demand it, and so do the American people.”

Hillary Clinton pens tribute to Obama
President Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton are turning into quite the mutual admiration society. Just a few months after Obama sat with Clinton for a joint interview on CBS' 60 Minutes, Clinton has penned a tribute to Obama in the pages of Time magazine. Obama is "a leader who delivers," writes the former secretary of State in Time's annual issue on the world's 100 most influential people. Some analysts will no doubt see Clinton's praise for the man who defeated her in the 2008 Democratic primaries as another sign that she will seek the presidency in 2016. Here is Clinton's brief essay on Obama: "Crowds jammed the streets of Rangoon. Children waved American flags. Parents craned to see something long thought impossible: the President of the United States had come to Burma with a message of hope, freedom and opportunity. This was American leadership at its best. "When Barack Obama was first elected, the world saw the realization of the American Dream. Today, they see a leader who delivers -- whether it's ending the war in Iraq, imposing crippling sanctions on Iran or reasserting our role as a Pacific power and building a world with more partners and fewer enemies. At home, the economy is growing, unemployment is falling, and home prices are rising. "Now, President Obama is working to create broader prosperity at home and become more competitive abroad by investing in our people, modernizing our infrastructure, building a new energy future and managing our long-term fiscal challenges. That's the course for a better future."

Red Cross: Security deteriorating in Afghanistan

Associated Press
The International Committee of the Red Cross warned on Thursday that security was deteriorating across Afghanistan as militants flood the battlefield and conduct attacks in what could be the most defining spring fighting season of the nearly 12-year-old war. This year is crucial for Afghanistan as the U.S.-led coalition is expected to hand over the lead for security in Afghanistan to the country's security forces sometime in the late spring. Foreign military forces are then expected to begin a massive withdrawal of forces that will culminate at the end of next year. Gherardo Pontrandolfi, head of the ICRC delegation in Kabul, also urged the warring parties to prevent the deaths of civilians, who have become increasingly caught in the crossfire. "Spring is a good season of the year usually. But unfortunately it has a negative connotation with the resumption of the fighting," he said. "Spring and summer will be very difficult for civilians especially in the months ahead. The civilian population is bearing the brunt of this conflict." So far, April has been the deadliest month of this year. According to an Associated Press tally, 186 people — including civilians, security forces and foreign troops — have been killed in violence around the nation. More than 150 insurgents have also died, according to the tally. The latest deaths came in southern Helmand province when insurgents shot and killed four laborers building a checkpoint for the Afghan army, said provincial spokesman Umar Zawaq. The Taliban have pledged to target anyone working for the government or the U.S.-led coalition. Pontrandolfi said the Afghan Red Crescent had temporarily stopped humanitarian operations in northern Jawzjan province after unknown gunmen ambushed a medical van on Wednesday and killed two staff members of the local organization. Two other Red Crescent staff members were wounded in the attack. "This is a tragedy, not only for the families of the deceased, but for all those needing medical attention, because now units like these might find it even more difficult to work in certain parts of the country," he said. He added that the security situation has been made worse by a multitude of insurgent and criminal groups now operating around the country, a sign that the mainstream insurgent groups, such as the Taliban, might be fracturing. The Taliban usually allow the ICRC and affiliated groups, such the Red Crescent, to operate in areas they control. "What we see is a proliferation and fragmentation of armed actors," Pontrandolfi said. "Fighting, roadblocks, roadside bombs and a general lack of security prevent medics and humanitarian aid from reaching the sick and wounded — just when they need it most." The Taliban are stepping up their attacks this spring, analysts say, as they try to position themselves for power ahead of national elections next year and the planned withdrawal of most U.S. and other foreign combat troops by the end of 2014. The persistent violence has undermined confidence in the ability of President Hamid Karzai's forces to take over the country's security.

Earthquake in Balochistan

An earthquake occurred on Tuesday afternoon with an epicentre some 82 km below the surface in Iranian Balochistan. While there has been no loss of life in Iran, at least 27 injuries were reported. However, in Pakistan’s Balochistan, dozens of villages on the Mashkhail area of Washuk district were damaged, while 24 people were killed by building collapses, which was measured at 7.8 on the Richter scale. It is noteworthy that the epicenter was in Iran, but the deaths occurred in Pakistan. It was the worst earthquake in Pakistan since the one that struck Azad Kashmir in 2005, and is another indication that the complex of mountains, consisting of the Himalayan Range and the mountain ranges of what amount to its foothills, are now seismically active. Recent trends have shown destructively violent earthquakes to be occurring at increasingly frequently. If human habitation is to continue in the region, it will have to be in accordance with this new reality, and people will have to both accept and implement the new restrictions.And restrictions there will have to be, mainly in terms of building regulations. As the Azad Kashmir earthquake showed, unrestricted and unrestrained building cannot be permitted, for residential or any other purpose. Not only have certain areas to be excluded, but building plans must be approved, seeing among other things whether the proposed building can withstand the rigours of an earthquake. It is also an inadvertent test of the utility of the caretaker government, with the Balochistan caretaker Chief Minister and the Provincial Disaster Management Authority coming into action. The authority was one of the provincial bodies set up after the Azad Kashmir earthquake, and which so far had been devoting itself to flood relief. Though this particular disaster was not at all a needed reminder, this was the kind of disaster that needed management. It should not be forgotten that Quetta, not all that far from the earthquake-hit area, has been the site, in 1930, of one of the worst earthquakes in history. If the government does not ensure proper building rules being implemented countrywide, that would only be waiting for a future tragedy to occur.

Pakistan: Politicians under attack

Daily Times
In one lethal incident after the other, the corpses of women, children, the elderly and young men keep piling up, scarring the mental, emotional and social psyche of the population across the country. The very nature and irregularity of methods employed to unleash violence make it impossible for any effective system to be put in place that may act as an impediment to any further attacks. In the absence of a solid and effective counterterrorism policy, implementation of whatever excuse of a policy there is in existence; inadequate resources available to the security agencies, scarcity of manpower, and the fear of the next attack that could be an IED, a suicide bomber, a remote-detonated device away, fear looms large, and there is no respite in sight. As 16 people died and several were injured in a suicide bombing in Peshawar on Tuesday, the sense of grief was manifold. The attacked venue was an Awami National Party (ANP) rally. The politician in the forefront who sustained injuries was the brother of the slain ANP leader Bashir Ahmed Bilour and former federal minister for railways Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, and the dead included a child. The senior leaders of the ANP, despite being under open threat from the TTP, were deprived of security by the caretaker set-up, protesting which the ANP leader Asfandyar Wali Khan wrote to the Election Commission of Pakistan, but to no avail. The three parties that are secular in their stances — the PPP, MQM and ANP — are considered an obstacle in the implementation of the radical, fanatical manifesto of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and are in a constant line of fire. No safeguard seems to work when it comes to the ANP. The audacity with which the Taliban assumed responsibility of the attack through their spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan’s telephonic message reveals the outrageousness of the militant group, which seems to declare: we are not scared to attack repeatedly until we remove all obstacles from our way. The inability of Pakistan’s security agencies to deter such attacks sadly seems to reiterate that. Meanwhile a remote-controlled bomb ripped through the motorcade of the president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Nawab Sanaullah Zehri in Balochistan, killing four people, including his son, brother and nephew, and wounding 30. This tragedy came about when the convoy was en route to Zehri from Anjeera during the election campaign that is underway in most parts of Pakistan these days. This deadly incident appears to have the imprimatur of the Baloch insurgents, who seem to be on a vengeance spree amidst the constant ‘kill and dump’ policy of the Frontier Corps and its mercenary death squads, and to sabotage the elections in the province. The two very unfortunate events marking more deaths and mayhem in the troubled Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan are clear indications of the attempts from two different sets of actors to sabotage the process of electioneering and eventually the election on May 11. Albeit there is a sense of tremendous fear among people in these areas to assemble in open spaces now, the need of the moment is not to cave in in the face of these attacks. These elections are not only a historic first in terms of a democratic transition, any obstacle to their timely holding would engender a bigger political crisis. Succumbing to the threats of the TTP would be tantamount to saying the will of the terrorist is stronger than that of the state. Unfortunately, the previous government failed, as has the caretaker one, to find ways and means to talk to the Baloch insurgents, which may have led to a better outcome. Now, it does not seem the violence will subside long enough to peacefully hold the elections.

ANP: Taliban’s main target

The Awami National Party is certainly the main target of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan which has mounted deadly attacks on the party's rallies since the election campaign got underway. The party's election rallies have come under attack almost daily taking a heavy toll of life of the party workers and the common people. The latest of the rallies in Sardehri area of Charsadda where ANP leader Farooq Khan was targeted in a bomb blast in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Charsadda region on Wednesday. The blast occurred near the vehicle carrying Farooq Khan who escaped unhurt. Khan is the Vice-President of ANP in constituency of PK-17 and is also the coordinator of ANP President Asfandyar Wali Khan's election campaign. On Tuesday a suicide bomber targeted a rally of senior ANP leader and former Pakistan Railways minister Haji Ghulam Ahmed Bilour at an election rally of the same party at Gilani Chowk in Peshawar. He sustained minor injuries. Seventeen people, including three children and six police personnel, were killed while 64 were injured in the attack. Nineteen of the injured were still under treatment at the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar; condition of two wounded was reported to be critical. Previously, ANP leaders Syed Mukarram Shah and Syed Masoom Shah were targeted in two separate attacks. While Mukarram was killed, Masoom Shah sustained grievous injuries. The TTP, which has claimed the responsibility of all these attacks, had sometimes ago declared the Pakistan People's Party, the Pakhtun nationalist party ANP and urban Sindh-based Muttahida Qaumi Movement as its targets during the electioneering. All the three parties have a secular agenda and are opposed to Taliban's extremist views and militancy. The PPP, the country's largest political organization, had to cancel its main rally at Naudero, in Larkana, on April 4 this year for the first time in nearly three decades owing to security concerns. If this is the situation in the beginning of electioneering, the future could hold an appalling scenario, particularly on May 11, the day appointed for polling across the country. Voters turn-out on the day is all wrapped in an environment of fear and there may not be keenly contested elections this time. Candidates and their supporters will not escape the impact of these fearsome surroundings. The possibility of the upcoming parliamentary elections turning out to be the bloodiest cannot be ruled out with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa the worst victim. What appears a major snag in the overall state of affairs is that despite the menace of extremism and terrorism taking a heavy toll of l life for years in and years out, police and other law enforcing agencies have not equipped themselves with the professional knack that is required to combat the twin menace. The country also failed in working out a intensive security strategy to serve as the basis of fighting terrorism and civil and military intelligence agencies also faltered in increasing their much needed coordination to counter terrorism. The same is the story of the recently established Counter Terrorism Authority which is facing similar lacunas. Such a strategy was formulated initially under a resolution by an all-party conference in Islamabad on Swat and Malakand on May 18, 2009. Moving ahead, a joint session of parliament passed on October 22 the same year a national security strategy was founded after a two-week in-camera session in which top men in security fray, military and civil, gave briefing in the presence of all the provincial and Gilgit-Baltistan chief ministers, senators and MNAs. What is needed is to pick up the thread of the two sessions and polish finer points of their resolutions to work out an effective anti-terrorism strategy. Similar will be the requirement of the Counter Terrorism Authority in working out a policy in this regard. The question arises as to what the caretaker administrations at the center and in provinces are doing to remedy the wrong. They have been assigned to hold free, fair and transparent election for the transition of democracy, but will they be able to achieve the cherished goal under the circumstances? True that the outgoing government, the Musharraf regime and earlier governments have not been able to raise an effective anti-terrorism edifice, the caretakers are, too, indulging in photo sessions and nothing concrete. They have a constitutional responsibility of passing on the baton of democracy to another in an environment where the electorate does not feel hesitant in going to polling stations for security reasons. This is their fundamental task which needs to be focused upon in all earnest.

Pakistan's Musharraf on the run after arrest order
Former Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf and his security team pushed past policemen and sped away from a court in the country's capital on Thursday after his bail was revoked in a case in which he is accused of treason. Local TV broadcast footage of the dramatic scene in which Musharraf jumped into a black SUV and escaped as a member of his security team hung to the side of the vehicle. He sped away to his large compound on the outskirts of Islamabad that is protected by high walls, razor and guard towers. This week has gone from bad to worse for Musharraf, who seized power in a coup in 1999 when he was serving as army chief and spent nearly a decade in power before being forced to step down in 2008. He returned last month after four years in self-imposed exile to make a political comeback despite legal challenges and Taliban death threats, but has since faced paltry public support. A court in the northwestern city of Peshawar on Tuesday disqualified Musharraf from running in the parliamentary election scheduled for May 11, likely squashing his hopes for political comeback. The case before the Islamabad High Court on Thursday involved Musharraf's decision to suspend the constitution and declare a state of emergency in 2007. He also placed senior judges, including the chief justice of the Supreme Court, under house arrest. Musharraf obtained pre-arrest bail before he returned to the country, meaning he could not be arrested when he landed — a feature of Pakistan's legal system. The Islamabad High Court refused to extend that bail on Thursday and ordered his arrest, said police officer Ali Asghar. Policemen were deployed at the court to detain the former military ruler, but he managed to escape, said Asghar. Musharraf's lawyer, Ahmad Raza Kasuri, complained that the court didn't listen to their arguments. "It is a one-sided decision," said Kasuri. A spokeswoman for Musharraf, Saima Ali Dada, said his legal team was trying to decide the next move. Musharraf's decision to flee the court could put the Pakistani army in an awkward situation. The former general is protected by paramilitary soldiers who officially report to the Interior Ministry, but are headed by senior army officers. Ali Dayan Hasan, the director of Human Rights Watch in Pakistan, called on the military authorities protecting Musharraf to comply with the court's order and ensure that he presents himself for arrest. "General Musharraf's act today underscores his disregard for due legal process and indicates his assumption that as a former army chief and military dictator he can evade accountability for abuses," said Hasan in a statement sent to reporters. "Continued military protection for General Musharraf will make a mockery of claims that Pakistan's armed forces support the rule of law and bring the military further disrepute that it can ill afford," Hasan said. Pakistan has a long history of the army seizing power in military coups, and the service is considered the most powerful institution in the country. If convicted of treason, Musharraf could face the death penalty or life in prison. But the federal government would have to file charges against the former military ruler, which it has not yet done. The petitions in Islamabad High Court accusing Musharraf of treason were all filed by individuals. Musharraf faces similar accusations from petitions filed before the Supreme Court. He also faces legal charges in several other cases, including the 2007 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and the murder of a nationalist leader in Baluchistan in 2006. Given the legal challenges and Taliban threats against Musharraf, many experts have been left scratching their heads as to why he returned. Some have speculated he misjudged the level of public backing he would get, while others guessed he was simply homesick. Musharraf flew to the southern city of Karachi from Dubai on March 24. He was only met by a couple thousand people at the airport, a sign of how little support analysts say he enjoys in the country. A few days later, an angry lawyer threw a shoe at Musharraf as he was walking through a court building in Karachi. The former military ruler applied to run for parliament from four different districts in Pakistan, which is allowed by the country's political system. Judges initially rejected three of his applications, but an official in the remote, northern district of Chitral gave him approval to run. That changed Tuesday when the High Court in the northwestern city of Peshawar disqualified Musharraf in Chitral. He can appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, but legal experts speculated that chances the decision would be overturned were remote. Dozens of police and elite commandos blocked the main road leading to the compound where Musharraf was holed up on the outskirts of Islamabad and residents were asked to use another route to go to their homes. About 20 Musharraf supporters who gathered near the compound held banners and shouted slogans in favor of the former military ruler.