October 10, 2009

Pakistan Dispatch - Waiting in vain

Two attacks in two days... 52 dead in Peshawar yesterday and at least four dead soldiers in an attack on Pakistan's army HQ in Rawalpindi today. Anyone would think that someone is trying to send someone else a message.

Waziristan Offensive Soon, says Malik

“You will see a clear change in a few weeks as all roads lead to North and South Waziristan and the government is determined to fight and crush the Taliban,” (Interior Minister Rehma) Malik said in Senate.

Here is a rough idea of what happened from the Dawn newspaper:

The massive blast ripped through a packed market at midday on Friday killing at least 49 people and injuring over 100. Charred corpses were strewn in a shopping area of the city's main Khyber Bazaar, with cars reduced to burning wrecks and a city bus destroyed and flung on its side.

There aren't many countries in the world where a suicide bomb is pushed off the front page by what can only be described as a suicide gun attack in less than 24 hours.

From The News:

According to reports, terrorists in army uniform attempted to get entry into GHQ at 11:30 am on Saturday from gate no 1. When stopped by security officials, they reached at check post no 1 and opened fire on security men after taking positions after leaving the car. Four terrorists were killed and two fled during trade of fire between security officials and terrorists. Army gunship helicopters started hovering over the area for vigilance. The commandos seized the bodies of terrorists and shifted them.

DG ISPR Athar Abbas confirmed killing of four terrorists whereas six security officials were also martyred in the operation. Two terrorists managed to flee. Search operation is underway in the area to nab the two terrorists at large. All roads leading to GHQ have been sealed after the incident.

GHQ is regularly described as "the most well guarded site in the country". Now, Londonstani hasn't been up to hang with the GHQ people yet but having seen the Sarena and Marriot hotels last night, he is pretty convinced that getting anywhere near is no joke. Seriously, just getting to the FIRST metal detector at the Sarena took a lengthy hike from the main road and up past lots of very serious looking tooled up soldiers.

But having seen it last night, it did occur that maybe there is a plan in the seemingly mindless violence. The only people in the Sarena were Chinese contractors, a small wedding party (the Pakistani zeal for weddings in five star hotels still defeats all before it) and.. unsurprisingly.. European and North American embassy staff. Embassies themselves look like bomb shelters (think Baghdad 2005), and the only places it seems their staff can go for an after-work coffee resembles a Soviet nuclear shelter with a bit of grass. Can't be great for them and does absolutely nothing to endear them or their countries to the local population. On top of that, Islamabad's security chiefs keep erecting random road blocks and blocking streets. Who does this make everyone curse when they drive? Nope, not the Taliban. Instead they direct their displeasure at the diplomats and other foreigners that this seems to be aimed at protecting. (this is how it seems when you are sweating in a car standing still at a road block)

UPDATE: The Pakistani commercial channels are reporting that this attack has not ended. News flashes and news tickers are saying that four attackers have holed themselves up with anywhere from five to ten hostages - all Pakistani military personnel. And Islamabad police have raided a house near the city packed with weapons, uniforms, explosives and detonators linked to the attack. The attack has been going on for 12 hours.