The gathering storm
It is nearly eight years since General Pervez Musharraf became Pakistan’s President. In this time, he’s always played his cards well, keeping everyone guessing about his next move. But not anymore, if the violence in the wake of the bloody military operation — to neutralise the
elements in Islamabad’s Lal Masjid — is any indication. There has been a wave of bomb attacks and suicide bombings of late that targeted the security forces and the military. In the latest incident on Wednesday two bombs exploded, one in the south of the country and the other in the northwest, killing at least 32 people, most of them policemen. The policemen were escorting a team of Chinese engineers on their way to Karachi when the first blast occurred, while in the second attack, a car bomber blew himself up at a police training centre in the city of Hangu.
It is not clear at this point if these attacks are directly linked to any major terrorist outfit. But it is not unlikely that they were triggered by the Lal Masjid assault, especially since many of the victims came from Pakistan’s volatile northwest border, and most of them were apparently followers of a militant brand of Islam like that of the Taliban in Afghanistan. This couldn’t have happened at a worse time for Musharraf. He is already on a weak wicket, besieged by the fallout of the unconstitutional dismissal of the chief justice of the Supreme Court that he engineered last March. Adding to his woes, the peace accord he had signed with tribal leaders of Pakistan’s ungovernable northwest frontier region could now be at stake. The ten-month-old truce forced Islamabad to withdraw troops from the region that is a known stronghold of the Taliban remnants and — more important — the most likely location of Al-Qaeda’s leadership.
General Musharraf always argued that the truce helped recruit tribal chieftains as allies against radical Islamists. But the increasing violence in the country originating from there suggests that Al-Qaeda may have managed to recoup in the vacuum. India has a vital interest in these developments, because they have served to stall the fledgling peace process. In addition, New Delhi is keen to avoid an aggravation of the jehadi threats from Pakistani territory directed against India.