A century ago the suicide attack in Pakistan which has already taken the lives of 136 people would have gone unnoted in the West:
The bombing took place around midnight Thursday, hours after Bhutto returned home. Hospital and police sources said at least 387 people were wounded.
Gen. Musharraf called Bhutto Friday to assure her that an independent investigation will be completed as soon as possible, his office said.
Bhutto apparently had moved from the roof of the vehicle inside and downstairs just moments before the blasts.
“I can see body parts strewn all over the road,” said CNN’s Dan Rivers, at the scene. “There are dead bodies everywhere. … It is a large-scale attack, by the looks of things.”
Authorities believe one of the suicide bombers was on foot and threw a grenade to attract attention before setting of the second, major blast, Karachi police chief Azhar Farooqi told CNN. The bomber is believed to have acted alone.
Pakistan, of course, did not exist as a separate country 100 years ago but the news, if it had been reported at all, would have been reported weeks later and merely as a curiosity. Today there’s on-the-scene coverage complete with live video. Unfortunately, although stories like this are thrust upon us most of us here in the West know little more about Pakistan than the lurid views in the news coverage.
Who could be behind such an attack? At this point it’s being blamed on violent radical Islamists:
KARACHI, Pakistan – Former Prime Minister Benezir Bhutto, her return from exile shattered by a suicide attack that killed up to 136 people, blamed militants Friday for trying to kill her and said she would not “surrender our great nation” to them.
Bhutto said there were two attackers in the deadly bombing, and that her security guards found a third man armed with a pistol and another with a suicide vest. Ahead of her arrival, she said, she was warned suicide squads were dispatched to kill her.
“There was one suicide squad from the Taliban elements, one suicide squad from al-Qaida, one suicide squad from Pakistani Taliban and a fourth â€” a group â€” I believe from Karachi,” she said.
Baitullah Mehsud â€” a top militant leader on the unstable Afghan border â€” threatened this month to meet Bhutto’s return to Pakistan with suicide attacks, according to local media reports. An associate of Mehsud, however, denied Taliban involvement.
The Economist provides a little more context:
A poll for the International Republican Institute (IRI) showed that the proportion of Pakistanis who consider her their best leader has dropped to 28% in recent months. Support for Nawaz Sharif, another exiled former prime minister, who has refused to talk to General Musharraf and who briefly returned to Pakistan last monthâ€”and who may soon return againâ€”has climbed to 36%. As for General Musharraf, he is horribly unpopular. The IRI poll gave him a 21% approval rating, down from 63% a year ago.
Those who have more background and knowledge of Pakistan, like Ali Eteraz, are equally appalled:
In private correspondence with me, one Daily Times Pakistan columnist referred to the attacks as “Pakistan’s 9/11.” The reason for her reference has to do not necessarily with the death-toll but with the gravity of the attack. The area in Karachi where the bombs hit is called Karsaz. It is a high-end residential area, populated by the family of businessmen and other “old money.” These people have significant pull in the country’s politics and will naturally seek revenge. Geo TV, Pakistan’s top private news-station captured the bomb blast on TV, and undoubtedly the image will be seared into the minds of the Pakistani public. The enormous death toll, the camera documented carnage, the media-storm that was already present at the caravan, will all make certain that these two bombs will echo long into the future of Pakistani public. They will most certainly affect the upcoming parliamentary elections.
He’s not optimistic about Pakistan’s future:
In both the short and long-term, my sense is that Pakistan is now on its way to a civil war, which will be focused on the Waziristan region. Already, Pakistan has had 90,000 soldiers deployed in the area. Those who oppose taking this step will be subjected to the media coverage of the two suicide attacks that is now available. Pakistan’s 9/11.
Pakistan is the only nuclear-armed country with a Muslim majority. Here in the West our impressions of Pakistan are formed by the news reports we see and read and I’ve got to admit that, at least today, Pakistan looks violent, savage, and ungovernable. A century ago the carnage in Pakistan might have gone unnoticed in the West. Today, the world is watching.