Muhammad Irfan Malik’s daughter was killed when she was 17 years and 2 months old, a college student. On October 20, 2009, she was with classmates in her university cafeteria when a suicide bomber detonated explosives that launched 46 ball bearings into her body. She died 43 days later.
But when casting blame, Malik turns to an equation that is common here - one that Pakistani officials often cite to explain why their country remains reluctant to fully confront Islamist militants despite acute pressure from the United States. Since 2001, when Islamabad partnered with Washington to combat the Taliban and al Qaeda, there have been 335 suicide bombings in Pakistan. Before 2001, there was one.
If Pakistan had never allied with the United States, Malik surmised, bombings such as the one that killed his daughter might never have occurred.
“The government is siding with the United States,” Malik said, his eyes damp. “The people are not.”
To Washington, which provides Pakistan with billions of dollars in aid, the carnage should be enough to turn the country’s public and its power structure firmly against Islamist militancy. But to ordinary as well as influential Pakistanis, the view is far less clear.
“I have become so unsafe that sometimes I think I should have my family leave Pakistan,” said Hamid Mir, a popular television host, explaining the view of many Pakistanis. “Why is that? It is because of the American policies in Pakistan.”
A recent Pew Research Center survey found that a large majority of Pakistanis consider suicide bombings unjustifiable. But majorities also view the United States, with its campaign of frequent drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas, as an enemy.
“Society is in shock,” said Husnul Amin, an assistant professor of international relations at the International Islamic University. “They know that something has happened to us, but they can’t analyse what and how. There is a gray area in which even an educated person is confused.”
In exclusive partnership with The Washington Post