On Thursday, ten people were killed in separate bombings targeting police forces in Pakistan. According to media outlets, a suicide blast targeting a police complex that housed an anti-terrorist squad in Islamabad injured at least seven people. CNN reported, “The force of the blast crumbled one side of a three-story building, believed to be living quarters for officers.” The AFP cited Islamabad police chief Asghar Gardezi, who told reporters that “police were probing whether the bomber had tricked his way into the heavily guarded complex using a ruse of delivering candy to policemen.” He asserted, “A green car entered and parked in front of the anti-terrorist building. The driver got out and presented two baskets of sweets to the officials sitting at the reception desk. It was followed by a big explosion.”
In a separate incident, nine people were killed when a roadside bomb exploded close to a prison vehicle and a school bus in north-western Pakistan, reported BBC News. The news agency reported, “The remote-controlled device exploded in the Upper Dir district of North-West Frontier Province near the Swat Valley.” Four schoolgirls, three policemen, and two prisoners were killed in the bombing.
According to Reuters, “There have been fears of more bomb attacks in reaction to an army offensive against Islamist militant strongholds in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.” CNN reported the Islamabad blast today “occurred about 6 miles (10 km) from the parliament building, where military officials were briefing lawmakers about the deteriorating security situation in the country and the the ongoing military offensive to flush out extremists in the country’s tribal regions.” The session was a continuation of the briefing that occurred yesterday, when MPs “were told in an in-camera session on Wednesday that the Taliban pose a serious threat to Pakistan’s security,” reported the Daily Times. The newly-appointed ISI director general, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, reportedly briefed lawmakers on the gravity of the threat with the help of slides, charts and films. The Daily Times added, “Gen. Pasha had supervised military operations in the Tribal Areas and Swat as the director general of military operations before he was promoted.”
In an editorial today, Dawn noted that it remains to be seen whether these briefings will actually help evolve a national consensus on fighting Pakistan’s war on terror. The editors wrote:
Yet, despite the seriousness of the Taliban’s challenge – a challenge not just to the government of the day but to the Pakistani people’s way of life – the nation’s representatives were never given the impression that it is they who should ultimately determine the direction of the war and chart out a strategy reflecting the nation’s will.
While it is significant that the military is including the Parliament in this process, I wonder whether this truly marks a divergence from the past. Will this still be seen as the military’s war on militancy, or will the Pakistani government take a more active role in the offensive? While the military will be an instrumental actor in this war, the government must take the lead in selling it to the Pakistani people and garnering popular support for the Army. Building a Baghdad-style Green Zone in Islamabad may not suffice in addressing the much deeper issues at hand.