Terror threat hitting home in Pakistan
Attacks aren't just a US concern, more Pakistanis say.
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In the aftermath, Lahorites say, there was an outpouring of sympathy for the police, with stories in the local media showing the barbarity of the bombings. This would not be surprising but for the fact that "the police is the most reviled institution in Pakistan," seen as thoroughly corrupt, says Shahid Kardar, a columnist for the Daily Times, an English-language newspaper based in Lahore. "There is a gradual realization" of the scope of the terrorist problem, he adds.Skip to next paragraph
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Yet this has not translated into a groundswell of support for a more robust "war on terror" largely because of a "failure of the political parties," says Mr. Kardar. "They have not been able to translate this for the ordinary people."
Only Ms. Bhutto had been willing to speak out against terrorism and make it central to her campaign. The national parliament has not held a debate about terrorism since Sept. 11, experts note. It is still seen as Musharraf's issue, pursued at the behest of his patron, the US.
In areas closer to the tribal belt, however – where the danger has existed for longer and is much more immediate – opinions are more unsettled. Residents of the frontier town of Peshawar, mere minutes from the tribal agencies where militants are based, have seen more suicide bombings than most other parts of the country have.
Rahm Sher, a local leader, says three CD shops in his village received threatening letters a few weeks ago from militants who said the shops sold un-Islamic music. Last week, militants attempted to seize a school in the area.
"I feel totally insecure," says Abdur Rashid, a bookseller in Peshawar. "Even one year back, when we would leave our homes, we were certain that we would come back. Now, I am afraid because the government has no control."
Yet overwhelmingly, Pakistanis would rather see the dispute along the border settled peacefully. "Instead of pounding them with bombs, security forces should arrest these people and take them to a court of law," says Mr. Rashid. "For capturing one person, the whole village should not be destroyed."
The WorldPublicOpinion.org poll found that, given three choices, only 23 percent of Pakistanis want the government to use military force to control the tribal areas; 46 percent prefer negotiations.
Farther down the bazaar road in Peshawar's old town, a copy machine whirs as Abdul Hamid, an Afghan refugee, contemplates how the town has changed. "I left Afghanistan, but now I am confronted with the same problems here," he says softly.
His friend, making a stream of copies for customers who flit in and out of the dark hallway, is also an Afghan refugee and returns to Afghanistan every few months. "The situation in Afghanistan is far better than it is in Pakistan these days," says Abdur Raziq. "The focus of terrorism has been converted to Pakistan."
Recent reports suggest that he might be correct. The head of the Taliban, Mullah Omar, recently sacked the leader of the Taliban's Pakistan wing, Baitullah Mehsud, because he was focusing his efforts on Pakistan, not Afghanistan, according to the Asia Times Online.
In Peshawar, this has led some to believe that force is necessary. Amjad Iqbal sits in this shoe store and makes no concessions: "The Taliban is not Islamic in my mind. The government should fully crush them."