September 20, 2008

By now you'll have heard about the massive blast at the Marriot Hotel in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad. Reuters, AP, the BBC and everyone else has been covering it - a massive truck bomb killing at least 60, injuring over 200 and setting the whole hotel ablaze. Expect John McCain to adopt Obama's Pakistan policy almost overnight.

The attack is only the largest of 13 bombings in Pakistan since August 12 - an average of three a week. This attack has taken Pakistani victims at a rate of ten to one over Westerners, the others purely Pakistani casualties. There's little doubt that such a massive blast, within hours of President Zardari delivering a keynote speech about supporting the US-led "war on terror" and following all those others, is designed to send a message to the Pakistani government that they should rethink their alliance. But the question is, who is sending that message?

Some analysts - including a US intelligence official who spoke to Reuters from the trials at Gitmo - are saying the attack has the hallmarks of Al Qaeda; a massive, well timed bomb in a very secure area. Others are pointing to Pakistan's Taliban movement. In matters concerning Pakistan's internal affairs the two are not identical and which was responsible might make for a difference in response - Pakistan's military apparently believes that the Taliban can be negotiated with, but not AQ.

But whoever is responsible, the suicide bomber got past multiple checkpoints and sniffer dogs in a city which is also the military headquarters of the nation. The hotel is in a high security area, being close to the national assembly, a compound for ministers' homes and the main state television building. And security had been extra-high for Zardari's speech. There are bound to be questions about possible complicity from elements within the military or ISI, given the circumstances.

On an earlier post on the blast at Newshoggers, one Pakistani commenter lamented:

I dont know what to feel. Maybe because I've become so numb. but at the end of it, like everyone else - I'd speak about it. People would have long discussions/arguments about the incident; and its going to fade away like every other attack. We are being attacked from the air by foreign forces, and from within by our very own - the loss is ours in both cases.

I was always an optimist, I always thought it would get better and one day we will overcome it. I myself believed that Pakistan could be able to get over any sort of tragedy given the kind of society we have. But now, after today - I'm feeling it's been too much, there is no going back. All we Pakistanis can do is talk about it, say 'something needs to be done', but can't get our backsides out and actually do something.

Secretly we all wish that when the next bomb goes off, its not near us. Like this one - we would talk about the next one too, if we are not blown apart. And the process will carry on until one day our dear 'ally' decides that Pakistan needs foreign military to fix the problem. I see that day nearby.

I fear he is correct. But as I've previously argued, it's the second part of Obama's Pakistan policy that really needs implemented - not the first.

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