Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics
It must take a particularly determined lot to bomb a bus full of pilgrims, killing scores of them, and then following the wounded to a hospital to unleash a second attack to kill some more. Karachi’s twin explosions on Friday, targeting Shia Muslims on their way to a religious procession were on par with some of the worst atrocities committed in recent months.
It also came just two days after a bombing in Lower Dir, near Swat, in which a convoy of soldiers including U.S. servicemen were targeted while on their way to open a girls school. Quite apart from the fact that the U.S. soldiers were the obvious targets, the renewed violence along with fresh reports of flogging by the Taliban calls into question the broader issue of negotiating with hard-core Islamists as proposed by the Afghan government just over the border.
The blog, All Things Pakistan, captured the mood of a despairing nation. “Pakistan remains at war. Whether it school girls in Lower Dir or Shia mourners and those waiting outside Jinnah hospital in Karachi. All Pakistanis everywhere are targets for these murderous enemies of Pakistan.”
“It may be true that we do not have many friends abroad. But it is certainly clear that our cruellest enemies are all amongst us. Day in, day out, they kill and maim and terrorize Pakistanis all across Pakistan. No city is safe. No Pakistani is safe.”
With three U.S. soldiers killed in a roadside bombing in Pakistan’s troubled northwest on Wednesday, the war has just gotten hot. The bombing in which five Pakistanis also died took place in Lower Dir, an area near the Swat valley that the Pakistani military said had been cleared of the Taliban. More embarrassing, the attack raises uncomfortable questions about just what American soldiers are doing inside Pakistan. The three were part of a unit that trains Pakistani Frontier Corps responsible for security in areas near the Afghan border and may well be the first American fatalities in the effort to train Pakistani forces to fight al Qaeda and the Taliban.
No American soldiers are formally stationed in Pakistan, unlike Afghanistan or Iraq. The deaths of the three soldiers may therefore reignite debate over the role of the U.S. military in Pakistan, which has long chafed at U.S. military actions that violate its sovereignty, such as missile strikes by unmanned “drone” aircraft.
The United States has carried out the most intensive series of unmanned ”Predator” drone attacks inside Pakistan’s tribal areas since the covert war began, following December’s deadly raid on a CIA base just over the border in Afghanistan. Pakistani newspapers citing interior ministry data, say there were 12 missile strikes in January fired by the unmanned Predator and Reaper planes, the highest for any single month. The highest number of attacks in a month stood at six previously, which was in December 2009. There were just two strikes in January 2009, reflecting the surge in the drone campaign to fight al Qaeda and the Taliban since the Obama administration took over last year.