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Terrorist attacks in Pakistan stir anger at U.S.

Nineteen percent of Pakistanis have 'positive' views toward Al Qaeda, according to a BBC poll released Sunday.

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In June, Harvard student Samad Khurram made national news after refusing an academic award by US Ambassador Anne Patterson in Islamabad, citing his disapproval for the killing of innocent Pakistanis in US airstrikes.

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Badar Alam, a senior editor with Herald magazine, a leading news monthly, explains: "The general sense of Muslims being under a perennial US or Western invasion is one very basic reason people have these anti-US feelings."

Referring to the ongoing US raids that have claimed hundreds of lives in the past year, and caused the mass migration of up to 300,000 Pashtuns into neighboring Afghanistan in recent weeks, Mr. Alam says: "The mess we have in our own backyard only aggravates those feelings. Many people would have given the US the benefit of the doubt before the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq."

This tension extends beyond just the Pakistani public and is adding to the increasing assertiveness of political and military leaders.

Last Friday, Pakistani ground troops opened fire at US helicopters, prompting American forces to fire back in the Bajaur region – the first such incident acknowledged by US authorities.

At that time, government spokesman Akram Shaheedi urged US forces "not to violate [the] territorial sovereignty of Pakistan as it is counterproductive to the war on terror" – a message reinforced by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari in Washington Sunday.

But on Monday, however, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told a Senate panel hearing that international laws allow the US to take unilateral actions inside Pakistan, signaling that the country can expect more such incursions.

But Rasul Baksh Raees, head of Social Sciences at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), believes that the Marriott attack marks a turning point in the battle for hearts and minds in the battle against the Islamist militancy. "The apologists for terror have been forced on the defensive as the public saw these victims as ordinary people. I saw my own students at LUMS protesting against the United States strikes and a few days later they mourned the deaths at the Marriott, while condemning the Taliban," he says.

Still, the Marriott bombing hardened some Pakistanis against more US intervention.

Halima Mansoor, a visual arts student at Beaconhouse National University, says, "In the aftermath of the Marriott blasts, it's abundantly clear that an ongoing US presence in the country is bad for us."