Islamabad: The entire Pakistani leadership, including the President and the Prime Minister, had a brush with death as an iftar dinner they were to attend on Saturday at the Marriott was shifted to a different venue in a last- minute change of plans before a suicide bomber rammed his truck into the hotel gate.
Disclosing this two days after the deadly bombings which left 53 people dead, the Pakistani Government said it would have been "a great catastrophe" if the top leaders had been at the hotel when the bomber struck the popular five-star hotel.
"The National Assembly Speaker had arranged a dinner for the entire leadership for President Asif Ali Zardari, Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani and armed services chiefs at the Marriott that day," Interior Ministry spokesman Rehman Malik said.
"The President and the Prime Minister changed the venue to the Prime Minister's House. The function was not held at the Marriott, thus the whole leadership was saved," he told reporters at Chaklala airbase after the body of Czech Ambassador Ivo Zdarek, who died in the blast, was sent home.
The iftar dinner hosted by Speaker Fehmida Mirza was underway in the Prime Minister's House, located about half a kilometre from the Marriott, when the bomber rammed a truck packed with 600 kg of explosives into the gate of the five- star hotel.
"The suicide blast was aimed at targeting the political leadership but the government foiled the malicious designs of the terrorists by changing the venue of the dinner," he said.
Fifty-three people, including four foreigners, were killed and 266 injured in the attack, described by officials as the biggest ever bombing in Pakistan's history.
Besides the top leaders, the Speaker's iftar dinner was attended by several ministers, parliamentarians, foreign dignitaries and journalists.