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Pakistan’s Coming Horror

November 1, 2009

The recent attacks are a sign that Pakistan’s Taliban see civilian targets as fair game. Brace for more terror to come.

Pakistan is once again on the receiving end of violence and militant intimidation. Wednesday’s attacks were among the country’s deadliest. A car bomb tore through a crowded market full of women’s clothing shops and general market stalls in Peshawar, killing 95 people. The explosion came about three hours after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Islamabad, just 100 miles away.
Tensions have soared across Pakistan following a spike in Taliban-mediated violence killing more than 240 people this month alone. Peshawar, a gateway to the northwest tribal belt where the Pakistani Army is on a major offensive against Taliban militants, is a perpetual target for violence. But now, as the line between military and civilian targets blurs, the bloodshed has shaken even the most resilient Pakistanis. It has shattered any illusion that the Pakistani army is successfully quashing the Taliban. And if Wednesday’s strikes tell us anything, it is that there is much more violence to come. Pakistan is at war, and civilians are no longer immune.

The recent string of bloody attacks began on October 12, when a suicide car bombing targeting Pakistani troops killed 41 people in a market in northwest Shangla district, a Pashto-speaking area in the Swat Valley. The Pakistani army claimed it had retaken the area from militants, but the bombing proved otherwise. Two weeks later, a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a U.N. aid agency in Islamabad, killing five staffers. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack and warned of more violence unless the army ended its current offensive in the tribal areas of South Waziristan. It made good on its promise on October 10 when militants raided the army headquarters in the city of Rawalpindi. Military spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said during a press conference in Rawalpindi that the attacks were meant to force the government to “reconsider its decision to go after the Taliban in their heartland on the Afghan border.”

Now, the Taliban are threatening to unleash an even grander assault. “The more Taliban feel hemmed in by the Pakistani military presence around South Waziristan, where the Taliban has strongholds, the more they fight back like cornered animals,” explains Haroon Rashid of BBC Urdu.

What the attackers are after is alarmingly clear: to terrorize the Pakistani state and people into submission. “The militants want to destabilize the government and intimidate the public,” Mehmood Shah, a retired brigadier and defense analyst based in Peshawar, told GEO news network. The war is no longer just between security forces and the militants. Common citizens are directly involved now. 

The attacks have certainly succeeded in instilling fear. “When people leave their homes in the morning they fear for their lives,” Taj Javed, a freelance journalist, told me. “People are very scared and you can easily see it; there are fewer people on the streets. When I see security forces, I feel there will be soon another attack. We are sick and tired of the attacks.”

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 3, 2009 1:39 AM

    Let’s face it, we are at war. The ridiculous arguments about the terrorists only targeting government establishments, or it is the West’s war, it’s a Jihad against infidels, etc, were blown to smithereens last Wednesday afternoon in Peshawar’s Meena Bazaar. The powerful car bomb, which ripped through the thickly-congested market place — a favourite shopping area of lower and middle class families in particular — showed that it is a war with terrorists standing on one side of the blood line, and we the people on the other.

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