The World Is Watching

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 — a group — I believe from Karachi,” she said.

Baitullah Mehsud — a top militant leader on the unstable Afghan border — 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 month—and who may soon return again—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.

6 comments… add one
  • While English, other broadly distributed languages, and the Internet have paved the way for common transnational cultural relationships, it’s also focusing us on how and why we’re different and producing some challenges to attitudes about cultural and personal identity.

    This is an awful day for Pakistan; it may turn out a great day as well for lending itself to examination, reflection, and perhaps some fresh thinking about what a country is and can be in a world far more open and conversing than has ever existed.

  • I think that this is also an interesting opportunity for America if our politicians are clever enough to exploit it. (Odds long on that, I’m afraid.) There are two prongs to this opportunity, the first being to actually strengthen Pakistan’s nascent democracy, and the second being to eliminate the jihadi threat in NW Pakistan.

    For the first, we need to point out not just privately, but publicly, that a vibrant democracy is the only way that Pakistan can be stable in the long term. We can point out that Musharraf has been making moves towards a return to civilian governance and that this must continue. We can further point out that the jihadis oppose any form of civilian or democratic government, as witness their repeated attempts on Musharraf’s life and their recent attempt on Bhutto’s life. Thus, for Pakistan to move to a full democracy, the jihadis must first be defeated; the greater threat comes first. I think that the Pakistanis who matter, the governing and business elites, are currently shaken enough that they’d be willing to give this idea some thought, where until yesterday they would not have.

    For the second, we could (again, publicly) point out how the Pakistani military is already engaged in fighting the jihadis who are attempting to strangle Pakistan’s democracy, kill the insufficiently-Muslim (by their rather strict and hypocritical standards) business and political elites, take over Pakistan and generally become a law unto themselves. Say that we stand with the Pakistani military and government against the barbarians who did these despicable murders, and recognize Pakistan’s proud and independent military and how good of a job they are doing. Point out, too, though, that there are a lot of resources that the US has that could help in the fight, and offer US SOF and advisers under Pakistani command (we would set suitable rules for that, of course, to keep our guys from being cannon fodder) and the associated air and intelligence support. In other words, do to the jihadis in Waziristan what we did to them in Afghanistan. And that includes buying off local leaders, where practical.

    I think that the combined impact of the rhetorical thrusts and the offer of support under Pakistani control would have a real opportunity of changing the situation on the ground, and eliminating one of the top 3 threats we are currently struggling against in the war.

  • Reducing the threat from Pakistan’s territory has been one of the thorniest challenges that have faced us in trying to get the situation in Afghanistan under control. A classic case in which the only way to solve a problem is to expand it.

    How will Musharraf interpret this attack? I have no idea. If he views it as a threat to his authority, it creates an opportunity for us. If he views it as a failed attempt at removing a possible rival, not so much.

  • There have been repeated attempts on Musharraf’s life. I doubt he’ll be too rattled by an attack on his rival.

  • ash Mirza Link

    October 18-07 is a warning for People of Pakinstan , now is the time
    for Pakistani people to UNITE TOGETHER and fight against TERRORIST
    as we all know no religion allow to kill innocent people, and also we know
    TERRORIST have no RELIGION they have been BRAIN WASH.

    There is noway suiside Bomber when he sacrify his life GOD will give him
    place in heavan, I dont believe GOD is cruel.

    People of Pakistan must get rid of Terrorist from Pakistan, and people
    of Pakistan must unite together with government and get rid of Terrorist.
    Also closed all Terrorist training camp in Pakistan ..

    If not than Paksitan will become Afghanistan and people will be living
    STONE AGE…..

    ALso keep MULLAHS out from Politics and give them a job to take care of
    poor .handicap people of Pakistan and cleanup the street of Pakistan
    and organize volenteer organization to help needy.


    ash mirza

  • But when the terrorist have been homebred and supported by the west for there own purpose in civil war who is to blame?

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