On Monday, 10 people were killed and more than 40 were injured in a bomb blast in a crowded market in Karachi on Monday. News sources, including the LA Times and the Pakistan’s Daily Times, noted that an explosive was reportedly rigged to a motorcycle and left near a fruit cart. The Daily Times cited Sindh Police Inspector General Azhar Ali Farooqui, who said, “The bomb had exploded around 7.45pm at a market near the Gul Ahmed Textile Mill, within the jurisdiction of the Quaidabad Police Station.” Although no one has claimed responsibility for the recent wave of attacks, authorities say they were designed to exacerbate instability ahead of the February elections. Government officials, not surprisingly, blamed Al Qaeda-linked militants from tribal regions along the Afghan border for the bombing. The LA Times added, “The bomb was detonated in an area dominated by Pashtun tribesmen who have moved to the city.”
Following the bombing, President Pervez Musharraf faced new calls for his resignation, reported the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency on Tuesday. Monday’s blast occurred as Musharraf visited Karachi, although the Associated Press noted that he did not appear to be the target of the blast. Nevertheless, opposition leaders called for the ex-general to resign in the wake of the recent spate of violence, that the AFP reported has killed more than 800 people in the last year. Yesterday, Pakistan Muslim League-N leader Nawaz Sharif told an election rally of about 3,000 people in Islamabad, “Musharraf has destroyed Pakistan. He is blindly following America’s orders. The whole of Pakistan is drowned in blood.” [For an interesting piece on the militants in the country, see today’s NY Times article.]
There has been increasing pressure on the Pakistani President to resign. Pakistan’s prominent newspaper, The News, featured recent statements made by Pervez Hoodbhoy, described as “the brilliant Physics professor at Quaid-e-Azam University,” who told an Italian journalist, “I want Musharraf to go — resign or somehow be removed, preferably without bloodshed. I want the independent judiciary restored, a new neutral caretaker government installed for overseeing free and fair elections, and then elections that would decide upon the new parliament and prime minister. This will not immediately solve Pakistan’s fundamental problems — army dominance, maldistribution of wealth, religious fanaticism — but it would get Pakistan on the track to democracy instead of the self-destruction it is racing towards.”
The cycle of violence and instability in Pakistan has been self-enforcing, and many have pointed a finger at the current President, who we have seen become increasingly more defensive as he has come under attack, [see Monday’s post with the Newsweek interview as well as his recent interview with CBS News’ Lara Logan on Jan. 6th]. I’ve noted this shift in his interviews with interest – from a man who once instilled hope in Pakistanis to an ex-general who has become increasingly unpopular and on the defensive – when did that change start? Do all Pakistani politicians and leaders have a shelf-life before they, too, are deemed insufficient for the process?