The Pakistan quagmire
There is more.
Pakistan has suffered three suicide bombings over the past five days, spread across the country in Mir Ali, the provincial capital of Peshawar and the capital of Islamabad. While the targeting may appear different at first glance, each of the attacks were clearly directed at the authority and legitimacy of the state. Pakistan is fighting a deadly Islamist insurgency far more cunning, sophisticated and resourceful than that being fought in Iraq.
Yesterday's suicide strike in Peshawar, the capital of the Northwest Frontier Province, was directed at a procession forming up at a Shia religious center. The Shia are celebrating the holy month of Moharram, and Sunni attacks on Shia are especially violent in Pakistan. However, the attacker didn't just wade into the crowd to kill as many Shia as possible. He waited to kill the Peshawar chief of police. "The man was standing in the street and as police came out of the Imambargah, he made his way into the police team and blew himself up," said Badshah Gul Wazir, the provincial Home Secretary. Fifteen were killed in the strike and 60 were wounded. "Among the police officers killed were Malik Saad, the Commissioner of Police of Peshawar, Khan Raziq, Superintendent of Police, and Nawaz Khan, a Station House Officer. All the three of them were actively involved in the investigation of the earlier blasts in Peshawar."
B Raman notes this is the seventh such bombing in Peshawar since September. "Presently, the needle of suspicion points to the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), the extremist Sunni organisation of Pakistan, which has periodically been attacking not only the Shia, but also the more tolerant Barelvi Sunnis," notes Raman. "The LEJ often carries out acts of terrorism on behalf of the Taliban and Al Qaeda."
Pakistan is fighting an Islamist, al-Qaeda backed insurgency no less deadly than what is being fought by the governments of Iraq, Somalia the Philippines and elsewhere. This insurgency is threatening the existence of the nuclear armed Pakistani state. Musharraf and the Pakistani government dance around the issue, instead blaming a few 'miscreants, denying the existence of al-Qaeda in the tribal areas, refusing to dismantle Taliban command structures in Quetta and the FATA, and signing peace treaties with the Taliban and al-Qaeda in North and South Waziristan. Occasional airstrikes against al-Qaeda and Taliban bases only occur after significant prodding by American and NATO officilas.
The problem at this point is that Pakistan is not as engaged in the battle as the enemy is. It is not even as engaged as the governments in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, much of the terrorism elsewhere in the world emanates from within its borders. The government needs to engage the Islamist religious bigots now.