On Monday, media outlets reported that a suicide bomber killed 15 to 20 people and wounded more than 50, including a Pakistani opposition politician, in what the AFP described as, “the latest attack to underscore the threat posed by Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants.” The blast occurred in Bhakkar, Punjab, outside the home of Rasheed Akbar Nawani, a PML-N lawmaker. Reuters cited a police officer who said, “The bomber blew himself up the courtyard when Mr. Nawani was sitting with his supporters there.” Dawn framed the attack in light of sectarian tensions in Bhakkar, noting, “Nawani has spoken out in parliament several times recently against growing sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia Muslims.” Khan Baig, a senior police officer told the news agency, “It could be a sectarian related attack as he belongs to the Shia community.“
According to the AFP, “The blast came just four days after a suicide bomber detonated explosives outside the house of a senior member of Pakistan’s ruling coalition in a northwestern town, killing four people.” News agencies underscored that Monday’s bombing “was the latest in a string of bombings against government, military and Western targets in Pakistan.” On Sunday, Dawn reported that President Asif Ali Zardari and PM Yousaf Raza Gilani discussed “matters relating to the forthcoming joint session of parliament to be held to review the security situation.” However, Dawn reported that some opposition leaders asserted that the security issues need to be more comprehensively debated in Parliament to reach a consensus on “finding a lasting solution to the problem.”
In an article entitled, “Pakistan’s Fresh Resolve in Latest Battle Against Taliban,” the Christian Science Monitor’s Shahan Mufti wrote,
For Pakistan, moments of success have been few in the fight in its northwestern tribal area against members of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. But with militants there carrying out increasingly brazen attacks in Pakistan’s cities, and stirring trouble in Afghanistan – prompting the United States to pressure Pakistan to act – Pakistan appears to be taking its home-grown terrorist threat more seriously.
The Monitor added, “There is cautious hope among military planners and observers here that the current military offensive in Bajaur…will be a much-needed turning point in Pakistan’s war against domestic militancy,” [for more information on the Battle for Bajaur, see CHUP’s past post]. How is this offensive different from past military-led operations? In previous offensives, the Pakistani Army stopped partway through “to sign truces that ultimately allowed militants to regroup.” This time, however, the military is acting with a new resolve, “a clear mandate.” Talat Masood, a security analyst and former general in the Pakistani Army told the Monitor, “This time…the Army wants it to be different.“
What does a victory in Bajaur ultimately mean for the overarching battle against militancy? Mufti wrote, “A clear victory in Bajaur would not only mean a shift in a negative trend in Pakistan’s fight against militancy. It would also give the Pakistani government and Army control of a geographically strategic region of the fiercely independent and troubled tribal areas.” However, although Bajaur seems to be key to success, public support for this offensive is also necessary. While the recent spate of bomb blasts have turned public opinion in favor of Pakistan‘s war against the local Taliban, continuing U.S. strikes in the FATA threaten to erode that support. [Image from BBC News]