A powerful car bomb killed
80 in the Pakistani city of Peshawar today, just hours after Secretary
of State Hillary Clinton arrived in the capital, Islamabad, less than 100 miles away. Islamabad is considered less dangerous than Peshawar, which lies closer to the lawless region bordering Afghanistan. With a population of nearly three million, Peshawar could be a bellwether of the troubled nation's future as battles between official forces and the Taliban escalates. As Pakistan's military continues its assault on Taliban forces in the Western tribal areas, was today's bombing an inevitable instance of retaliation? Or is it a sign that fighting could spill into the rest of the country, launching a full-blown civil war?
- May 'Lead to Pakistan's Demise' Islamabad-based professor Pervez Hodbhoy pens "an SOS" on the rising extremism and fighting that he says could envelope the country. "A
full-scale war is being fought in FATA [Federally Administered Tribal Areas], Swat and other 'wild'
areas of Pakistan, resulting in thousands of deaths. It is only
a matter of time before this fighting shifts to Peshawar and
Islamabad (which has already been a witness to the Lal Masjid
episode) and engulfs Lahore and Karachi as well. The suicide
bomber and the masked abductor have crippled Pakistan's
urban life and shattered its national economy," he writes. "Extremism
is breeding at a ferocious rate in public and private schools
within Pakistan's towns and cities. Left unchallenged,
this education will produce a generation incapable of co-existing
with anyone except strictly their own kind. The mindset it creates
may eventually lead to Pakistan's demise as a nation state."
- Pakistan's Make-or-Break Moment The Times of India's Ahmed Rashid thinks that Pakistan's future rests on its military campaign in Waziristan. "The spate of attacks could have been designed to prevent
or delay the army offensive, but they also aimed to topple the government,
impose an Islamic state and, if possible, get hold of Pakistan's nuclear
weapons," Rashid writes. "Moreover, several within the militant leadership had direct
connections to the army or the ISI. Police officials say that the Rawalpindi and
Lahore attacks had help from inside because the terrorists were able to bypass
the stringent security measures in place." He concludes, "The key to future stability is to bring the
army, civilian government and the opposition onto one page with a common agenda
to fight extremism, while amicably resolving other internal disputes, but so far
that looks extremely unlikely."
- Misguided Military Worsens Situation Mosharraf Zaidi argues
in the National Post that the Pakistan and American militaries, not
extremist violence, is to blame for deteriorating situation. "One
recurring theme in the English language press in
Pakistan, and across the Western media, is the shaping of the current
crisis as a war against religious extremism. This is erroneous at best,
and disingenuous at worst," he writes. "The focus on extremism allows
state machinery to
easily escape any scrutiny or accountability for the horrific
counter-terrorism, and law and order failures that have produced
episode after episode of successful terrorist strikes." Zaidi implores, "What will the impact of raining down ammunition on South Waziristan
from F-16s be on the perceptions of battle-hardened, proud and
tough-as-nails young Waziri men and boys? How many innocent Pakistanis
will die as a result of the operation on South Waziristan? And what
will be the response of their family and their kinsmen?"
- Why We Can't Yet Know The Center for New American Security's pseudonymous Pakistani expert Londonstani relates reports
from Pakistan but says it's impossible to know what's unfolding. "While
the blow back is clear for everyone to see, no one really knows
what is happening in the tribal areas themselves. Reporter friends have
been up to Dera Ismail Khan and Peshawar to talk to those fleeing the
conflict zones but their stories of having to flee after government
forces suggested (in no uncertain terms) that it's time to leave did
little to shed light on how the fighting is actually unfolding," he
writes. "Of course, the government and the militants claim to be
humiliation on each other in buckets, but its anyone's guess what's
- Washington Backing Pakistani Fight The Washington Post's Walter Pincus reports on
the beltway thinkers who want U.S. forces to support and emulate the
Pakistan military's push. "Pakistan's military offensive in Waziristan,
and the negotiations that
preceded it, may be a paradigm for the U.S.-led coalition forces in
Afghanistan as well as for the fight against al-Qaeda and other extreme
Islamist groups in the Afghan-Pakistani border area," he writes, citing
Frederick Kagan of the conservative American Enterprise Institute.
"Kagan said he thinks the Pakistani military has learned lessons from
its earlier efforts to defeat Afghan Taliban groups and is applying
them to the current effort. If the Waziristan military campaign is
successful, it must be followed by some troops remaining to hold the
territory with Islamabad to support economic rebuilding. The positive
effect of that could go beyond that immediate territory, he said,
perhaps even to Afghanistan."
Want to add to this story? Let us know in comments
or send an email to the author at
mfisher at theatlantic dot com.
You can share ideas for stories on the Open Wire.