String of suicide bombings unsettles Pakistan
The latest, at a naval college in Lahore Tuesday, was the fourth in five days.
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Theories as to what is motivating the militants vary widely. Some note that the Army is still carrying out operations in other parts of the tribal belt beyond the Waziristans. There are reports of houses being leveled in the town of Darra Adamkhel as well as in the Swat Valley, which are both in Pakistan's militant-heavy northwest. Recent suicide attacks in these areas – at the tribal council and the police funeral, respectively – could be acts of retaliation.Skip to next paragraph
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Militants in these areas "say they have been attacked … and they want to take revenge," says Rahimullah Yousafzai, Peshawar bureau chief of The News, a Pakistani national newspaper.
A further reason could be to put pressure on the incoming Pakistan government. Though the Pakistan People's Party, which won the most seats in last month's election, has not yet succeeded in cementing a coalition, it will almost certainly be the leading partner in the next government – and it has taken the strongest stance against terrorism.
"They could be sending a signal that they have the power to strike anywhere, and that the government will have to talk to them on their own terms," says Mr. Yousafzai.
Yet he also suggests that the attacks might hint at cracks in Mr. Mehsud's rule of the Pakistani Taliban. "If Mehsud gives the order [for a cease-fire], not everyone is going to follow it," he says. "There's a lack of unity and a lack of command."
Many oppose attacks, blame Musharraf
What is clear is that the attacks are turning more Pakistanis against militants, whose actions were sometimes cast as freedom fighters against the United States in Afghanistan.
"It is leading to enormous public revulsion and a backlash against militants," says Rashid, the Taliban expert, who lives in Lahore.
On the streets of Lahore, however, Pakistanis are drawing their own conclusions from the bombings. Not surprisingly, it is the same message they tried to send in the election: Mr. Musharraf is the problem, and he needs to go to save the country.
"Our country has got a new government, but Musharraf is not leaving," says Mohammed Arif, a schoolteacher.
He notes that the top US military officer, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, met with Musharraf in Pakistan on Tuesday. "Until the US stops its support for Musharraf, the Pakistani government will be helpless in maintaining the law and order situation."
The widespread perception is that Musharraf, like other military rulers before him, supported militants, both to have a proxy army and to keep the US engaged in the region.
Musharraf's government "has been nurturing such elements, and it is the nation that is paying the price," says Mohammed Zahid, a local resident, as he buys fruit at a street stand.