Thursday, July 19, 2007

More Suicide Attacks In Pakistan Raise Disturbing Questions

At least 50 people have been killed and another 70 wounded in three separate attacks in Pakistan today.

Most recently, an apparent suicide bomb exploded in a mosque in Kohat, in northwest Pakistan, killing 15 people and wounding 19 others, according to a late, brief report from Dawn.

Two other suicide attacks had already occurred earlier in day, further escalating a wave of violence that -- frankly, and sadly -- shows no sign of abating.

Zarar Kahn of the AP wrote about the two earlier attacks in the Houston Chronicle:

Pakistan suicide bombings kill 36
Suicide bombers hit a convoy of Chinese workers in southern Pakistan and a police academy in the north, killing 36 people and wounding 54 as violence swept further across the country.
The first attack happened early in the morning:
In the northwest, a suicide car bomber detonated his explosives when guards prevented him from entering the parade ground of the police academy in Hangu, 45 miles southwest of Peshawar.

The bomber killed six bystanders and one policeman, and another 24 people were wounded, academy chief Attaullah Wazir said.
Four of the wounded people have since died.

Later, in the south, a convoy was
passing though the main bazaar in Hub, a town in Baluchistan province near the port city of Karachi, when a moving car blew up next to a police vehicle, officials said.

Hub police chief Ghulam Mohammed Thaib said 29 people were killed, including seven police. About 30 other people were wounded, some critically.

"It was laden with very heavy explosives but due to our spacing and our security measures, Allah has been very kind," Maj. Gen. Saleem Nawaz, a commander of Pakistan's paramilitary Frontier Constabulary said.
On Wednesday another convoy was ambushed, as Times Online reported:

16 Pakistani soldiers die as militants step up revenge attacks
Rebel fighters set off a remote-controlled roadside bomb as a military convoy moved towards Miran Shah, the capital of North Waziristan, Pakistan's most lawless region. The attackers then opened fire on the convoy, killing 16 soldiers and wounding a further 14.
And serious questions continue to be raised about the bombing of a political rally Tuesday night in Islamabad:
A suicide bomber detonated a powerful bomb near an outdoor stage where the country’s suspended chief justice was to address members of Pakistan’s opposition parties on Tuesday evening, killing at least 14 people and wounding at least 40, according to the police.

The attack occurred around 8:30 p.m. 100 yards from where the chief justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, was to speak to a crowd about half an hour later. Mr. Chaudhry’s convoy was several miles away when the bomber struck.
The questions are being met with ridiculous answers. Pakistan's Online News has part of the story here:

Lawyers observe Black Day throughout Pakistan
The Islamabad District Bar Association (IDBA) has strongly condemned the recent suicide blast in district court Islamabad, and has scoffed at government’s theory of involvement of lal Masjid.

In an emergency meeting held in the Bar room, and convened by president IDBA, advocate Haroon-ul-Rashid, the secretary general, advocate Syed Muhammad Tayyab floated a resolution strongly condemning yesterday’s suicide bombing, and demanded an immediate open judicial enquiry about the gory incident.

The resolution also maintained that such acts cannot weaken the efforts of lawyers’ movement.

The lawyers also announced that the incident was not a suicide blast, but rather the bomb was placed on site, while the motorbike found destroyed belonged to a deceased Tariq Abbasi.

The lawyers also denounced all the official comments and analysis as trite beyond limits, since the deceased and wounded were mere innocent persons, having no enmity, but were rather gathered to hear the speech of CJ, and express their solidarity with him.
... and the rest here:

Islamabad suicide blast security issue not political: Durrani
Expressing his grave sorrow and grief over loss of precious lives in a suicide blast in the capital before the address of Chief Justice (CJ) Iftikhar Chaudhry to Islamabad Bar Association, the Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Muhammad Ali Durrani has termed it security issue not political one.

Talking to a private TV Channel, the Information Minister said that the blast is in fact a [...] continuation of recent terrorist activities in the country and has no link with political issues.

Muhammad Ali Durrani said that investigations to probe the bomb blast have been started and the intelligence agencies are investigating which would yield positive results, he expressed hope.
So ... even though the investigations have just been started and the positive results are still in the "hopeful" stage, we already know is that the attack had nothing to do with politics!

That's according to the usual rule of thumb, which says no attack on any political figure or gathering could possibly be politically connected. It's a security issue, not a political one.

Right! How foolish of me!!

Elsewhere a Pakistani spokesperson reacted to the NIE claiming al-Q'aeda and Osama bin Laden were regaining strength in the mountains of Pakistan and preparing some dreadful strike targeting all of America -- or perhaps just Michael Chertoff's gut -- by saying the report makes a lot of unsubstantiated allegations.

Zee News of India reported:

Pak asks for evidence to back US claim of al-Qaeda build-up
Pakistan today dismissed as "unsubstantiated" a US intelligence report which said al-Qaeda militants are acquiring safe haven in the country's northwest, and sought "concrete and actionable" evidence to back Washington's claims.

"Pakistan is determined not to allow al-Qaeda or any other terrorist entity to establish a safe haven on its territory. In fact, Pakistan has done more than any other country to weaken and destroy al-Qaeda," Foreign Office Spokesperson Tasnim Aslam said.

Sticking to the stand not to permit foreign troops to hunt al-Qaeda and Taliban militants holed up in Pakistan, she said Islamabad is determined not to allow them any safe haven within its territory and the international community should not doubt its commitment.

"Our position is very clear that any counter-terrorism action inside our territory will be taken by our own security forces. This is the basis of our cooperation".

She said Pakistan continues to take effective action against any remnants of al-Qaeda and other terrorists and extremist elements.

"We would firmly act to eliminate any al-Qaeda hideout on the basis of specific intelligence or information".

She said the US national intelligence report had made some "unsubstantiated" observations. "It does not help simply to make assertions about the presence or regeneration of al-Qaeda in bordering areas of Pakistan. What is needed is concrete and actionable information and intelligence sharing".
Nonetheless, as previously reported, the US has asked Pakistan to launch a military offensive against the extremists.

As for the question of whether the President General can dismiss the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court has been hearing the case, and a decision is expected soon, perhaps as early as tomorrow. I will certainly keep you posted.