Comment for de Volkskrant, Holland
The truck laden with 1000 kg of explosives that suicide attackers rammed into the high-security Marriott Hotel in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad on September 20, 2008 demolished a major power symbol, prompting many to call it “Pakistan’s 9/11”. Although the number of casualties, around 60, was far below the over 150 killed in the attack on late former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s welcome procession of October 18 last year, this attack had greater symbolic significance.
Many foreigners patronize the five-storey, 290-room hotel that was also reportedly being used for a covert operation by US Marines, who were seen unloading a US Embassy truckload of steel boxes the night of September 17 — the day Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani met US Admiral Mike Mullen in Islamabad and convinced him to cease America’s military incursions into Pakistan. Continue reading
Shaheryar Azhar, moderator, The Forum
Again (and again) it is worth reiterating few things: (a) Pakistan must fight, along with economic and political tools, the extremists to the finish. (b) It will take, at leat, 10 years to complete the job. (c) Out of the ashes will emerge a modern and moderate Pakistan rid of its jihaidi, confused and conspiracy mind-set. (d) Only a democratic Pakistan (no matter ruled by whom: PPP, PML(N) or a third party) can successfully wage this war (e) currently there is no day-light between Pakistan’s army and the ruling elite, including ANP and the opposition PML(N). They realize the existential nature of the fight and have come together as one (e) to ensure this is cemented and crowned with success, America and the world must itself come together with economic and military aid in spades. (f) America will do well to trust this new Pakistan and move forward arm-in-arm with resolve as true allies.
Excerpt from TIME: “…..there is Pakistan itself, a country that truly is on the edge of civil war. Should we be adding to the force of chaos? By indiscriminately bombing the tribal areas along the Afghan border, we in effect are going to war with Pakistan’s ethnic Pashtuns. They make up 15% of Pakistan’s 167 million people. They are well armed and among the most fierce and xenophobic people in the world. It is not beyond their military capabilities to cross the Indus and take Islamabad. Before it is too late, someone needs to sit the President down and give him the bad news that Pakistan is a bridge too far in the “war on terror.” Continue reading
By Hamid Mir
Islamabad: I was very close to Marriott Hotel and reached the spot within a few minutes of the terrible blast. By that time only a few police constables from the nearby Frontier House and Balochistan House were trying to rescue the drivers who got killed sitting in their cars parked outside the hotel on Aga Khan Road. The road was in complete darkness since the intensity of the blast had destroyed all the street lights. Hearing some cries coming from the rubble of the Marriott entrance, I rushed there with another journalist colleague.
A badly injured security guard of a private company was lying in the rubble and was weakly shouting in Punjabi: “Stop the truck, stop the truck.” He was still holding his pistol in his right hand. It took at least 10 minutes to shift him from the blast site to an ambulance. He was an eyewitness but at that time he was shell-shocked. The initial rescue work was started by some police constables and journalists who were helping those who were still alive. We ignored the bodies because we were short of hands. In the next 15 minutes a lot of hotel occupants rushed out from the back door. Most of them were injured by broken glass. I realised that most of those killed in the blast had been the ones standing outside the hotel building – poor people who were working for the security and comfort of those who were inside the hotel. Continue reading
US raids on Taleban and al-Qaeda targets in Pakistani territory have caused outrage in Pakistan. And that has added to the loathing that some people there have long felt for the way that the US conducts itself on the world stage, as Owen Bennett-Jones discovers.
“I would rather live in the dark ages under the Taleban than be subservient to any foreign power.”
The unexpected comment comes from an urbane, sophisticated and, I had always thought, Westernised Pashtun lawyer.
He wears none of the badges of Islamic piety – a beard, for example – and he normally sports a navy blazer not the local shalwar kameez.
He is a former minister with the Pakistan People’s Party, the most liberal in Pakistan.
Rejecting the West
The word liberal in the Pakistani context means modern, educated, secular rather than theocratic and, up until now at least, pro-Western. Continue reading
Filed under Terrorism, war