Suicide bombings and failed cease-fire threaten Pakistan
Nearly 80 people have died in Pakistan in the last two days as militants avenge the Red Mosque raid and the Pakistani Taliban calls off the cease-fire.
The security situation in Pakistan has rapidly deteriorated following the July 10 raid of the radical Red Mosque in Islamabad. Islamic militants have avowed to avenge the mosque operation, and, in the past two days, suicide bombings have killed nearly 80 people. At the same time, the Pakistani Taliban, who operate in a tribal region along the Afghan border announced an end to a 10-month-old cease-fire and called for guerrilla attacks against Pakistani security forces.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Following the detonation of three vehicle-borne explosives in Matta Tehsil, a city in the Swat district, and another suicide bombing at a police recruitment center in Dera Ismail Khan, one Pakistani official compared the wave of violence to the situation in Iraq, reports The Dawn, a Pakistani newspaper.
"This was reminiscent of attacks on police recruitment centres in Baghdad," an official in Peshawar remarked, adding that the government would now have to go after the bases of militant groups in the tribal region.
Following the Red Mosque raid, Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, announced that "extremism would not be tolerated anywhere in Pakistan." Although General Musharraf initially received widespread support for his handling of the standoff with the radical mosque, he now lacks both the time and the resources to effectively fight the nation's extremists, reports The Independent.
Should he seek to impose martial law - something about which there has already been speculation - he would further lose support among the professional classes, many of whom have been outspoken in their support of the country's former Supreme Court Chief Justice - seemingly ousted by Mr Musharraf for political reasons. A decision on a legal appeal by the Chief Justice is expected to be announced this week.
Meanwhile, the Pakistani Taliban's recent termination of the cease-fire in North Waziristan, the tribal region along the Afghan border, threatens to create further problems for Musharraf and the embattled nation. Signed in September, the agreement was intended to keep extremists, many of them foreign fighters, out by working with local tribes. Under the terms of the cease-fire, the Pakistani military would withdraw troops from the region if local tribal leaders policed their own neighborhoods and stopped fighters from conducting cross-border raids into Afghanistan, reports The Washington Post.
As recently as this spring, government officials had been pointing to clashes between local militias and foreign fighters as evidence that the deal was working. The tribes, officials said, appeared to be banding together to oust Uzbeks, Chechens and other fighters who had been sheltered in the region.
But criticism of the deal has grown in recent months. U.S. and NATO troops have confronted escalating violence in Afghanistan, with much of it traced back across the border into Pakistan. Meanwhile, Pakistani tribal areas have increasingly come under the Taliban's sway, with the group using force to push its extreme vision of Islamic law.
The Pakistani Taliban claim that their abandonment of the cease-fire is not connected with security forces' military action on the Red Mosque, reports Pakistan's The News International. Instead, they blame the government's refusal to remove military checkpoints from North Waziristan. The government contends that the checkpoints were necessary to combat an increase in kidnappings, car theft, illegal weapons deals, and other crimes.
Abdullah Farhad, a spokesman for the militants, said their Shura, or council, under the leadership of Hafiz Gul Bahadur had decided to end the peace accord and ordered their fighters to start guerilla attacks against the security forces deployed in North Waziristan. He said the Taliban fighters were advised not to launch attacks in populated areas so that civilians were saved from the consequences.
The militants, who prefer being called Pakistani Taliban, had threatened to end the accord by July 15 if the Pakistan Army troops redeployed at several roadside checkpoints in North Waziristan were not withdrawn. They termed it a violation of the controversial peace accord signed last year on September 5.