Features

Terror creep

"Terror creep" Continued...

Issue: "Playing with capitalism," May 23, 2009

During the past 15 months, more than 1,395 people have died in 1,842 terrorist attacks on Pakistani soil. A suicide attack in December 2007 killed former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, a secular leader who returned from exile to campaign in elections. In September 2008, militants bombed the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, killing 54 people in an attack labeled by some as Pakistan's 9/11, and more recently, extremists attacked a visiting Sri Lankan cricket team and a police academy in the eastern city of Lahore.

But many of the Pakistanis willing to speak out against these attacks are also critical of U.S. air strikes against militants in the border regions with Afghanistan. Anti-Americanism is strong in Pakistan, contributing to the complexity of U.S.-Pakistan relations. U.S. President Barack Obama, who said he is "gravely concerned" about Pakistan's stability, met with Zardari and Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai last week to discuss a new strategy he hopes will cripple al-Qaeda and Taliban militants in both countries.

Meanwhile, Christians in Pakistan are on edge, and those who have been victims of the recent violence in Karachi hope their government will maintain a strong stance. "The Taliban have encircled Karachi and can launch a massive attack to capture Karachi, but they are waiting for the right moment," Bhatti said.

Christians in the Swat Valley have already had a taste of life under the Taliban-mandatory head coverings, destroyed schools, and severe restrictions are now the norm. Many have joined the 500,000 Pakistanis who have fled the Swat Valley and surrounding areas. "Shariah law could have many shades, but there is severe Shariah law in Saudi Arabia. I don't know if that is ever going to happen in Pakistan, but people are scared because this is the first time this danger is overshadowing them and they are really thinking hard about which way to go," Gill said.

The pro-Taliban leader who brokered the Swat Valley deal, Sufi Muhammad, indicated the direction he plans to go during a public meeting last month when he denounced democracy and Pakistan's judicial system as un-Islamic. Perhaps these glimpses of the Taliban's true colors will awaken Pakistan to the mortal threat creeping into positions of power right before its eyes.

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