Almost two decades ago, on a fateful evening of July 30, 2004, Pakistan witnessed an attack that left the nation in shock and sent ripples through its political landscape. A suicide bomber targeted the car of Shaukat Aziz, the Prime Minister-designate at that time, after a political rally in Punjab Province. The incident resulted in the loss of six lives, including the suicide bomber, and left 45 others wounded, including seven police officials.
The attack occurred as Aziz was heading back from the political rally in the village of Jaffer, approximately 36 miles from the capital, Islamabad. Despite the devastating explosion that badly damaged the left side of his bullet-proof Mercedes and claimed the life of his driver, Aziz himself emerged unharmed.
Shaukat Aziz, a technocrat with no prior political experience, had been President General Pervez Musharraf's handpicked choice for the next Prime Minister. He was running in an important by-election for a seat in Parliament's lower house, a crucial step towards his premiership aspirations. The attack, which aimed to disrupt the country's political stability, only strengthened the resolve of Aziz to serve Pakistan and the Islamic world, as he claimed in his speech on national television later in the day.
The perpetrators behind the attack were not immediately clear, but Pakistani officials suspected the involvement of Al Qaeda and its local sympathisers. At that time, Pakistan was facing a series of terrorist incidents, with President Musharraf himself having been targeted in two previous suicide attacks. The nation was grappling with the menace of terrorism, and this attack added to the grim reality that security remained a pressing concern.
Shaukat Aziz, an urbane former Citibank executive, represented the vision of a modern and moderate Pakistan that General Musharraf wanted to portray to the West. However, opposition politicians criticised him as an American stooge lacking a genuine popular following in the country.