Thursday, January 10, 2008

And Now It's Lahore's Turn

A suicide bomber blew himself up in Lahore in a crowd of policemen, killing 23. After a particularly brutal 2007, when an estimated 60 suicide bomb attacks killed 770 people in Pakistan - almost all in the NWFP, Quetta or Karachi - 2008 is not off to a great start. On the surface, there are three possible explanations:

1. The fact that this was in Lahore, the biggest city in Punjab, is not a coincidence. Sindhi nationalists, after holding Punjab responsible for Benazir's death, have struck back with their own salvo.

This explanation is extremely implausible. Though Sindhi nationalists are angry - many at Punjab - it is not clear that they would resort to this type of political violence in response to Benazir's assassination. Furthermore, Sindhi nationalists, as far as I know, have never used suicide bombers even when they were heavily involved in political violence in the 1970s and 1980s.

2. The fact that this was the day before Muharram is not a coincidence. Extremist Sunni groups such as Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan or Lashkar-e-Jhangvi have given a warning/appetizer for anti-Shia violence during the holy month of Muharram.

This explanation is somewhat plausible though still unlikely. Though the method fits those of Sunni militant groups such as SSP or LEJ, these groups usually hit their target, and their target during Muharram is usually the Shia community (imambaraghs, Shia processions, etc). It is unclear why they would hit a crowd of policemen.

3. The oncoming of Muharram and the location of the attack (Lahore) are not instructive in the least. This is merely a continuation of the anti-state violence seen in NWFP and other areas of Pakistan perpetuated by groups such as al-Qaeda or Baitullah Mehsud's Taliban.

This explanation, for me anyway, is the most likely. Militant groups are seizing the opportunity to destabilize Pakistan further at a time when the state is more fragile than it has almost ever been. Violence and fear are the means, and the descent of Pakistan into chaos and anarchy is the end.

Our thoughts go out to the families of those killed and injured.

Photo credit: Max Becherer/New York Times


NB said...

This is really sad. That Pakistanis are still able to sit on the fence with respect to pseudo-Islamic militancy despite scenes like this is reprehensible.

I agree with your opinion on No:3.

I hope that everything is done for the injured and the bereaved.

zeyd said...

Dude, it's definitely number 3. The scary thing is that with the start of muharram, I won't be surprised to see attacks on both shias and sunnis by al qaeda/mehsud just to further destabilize the situation.

On a separate note, it looks like the f.a.t.a is going to see a full scale civil war as the jirga have called the wazir tribe to arms against Mehsud for the alleged killing of tribal elders. The shit is just flying off the fan.