Monday, Nov. 03, 2008

Devastation in Islamabad

Pakistan responded to Indian accusations over the Mumbai massacre by pointing out that it, too, is under attack by terrorists. Militants operating in Pakistan's tribal wilds along the border with Afghanistan have wrought havoc on both sides of that frontier, and that mountainous strip has produced two attacks that shook Pakistan to the core: the assassination of Benazir Bhutto on Dec. 26, 2007 and the Sept. 20 blast that destroyed the heavily defended Marriott Hotel in the capital, killing up to 60 people. The terror strikes punctuated a rolling series of crises in Pakistan. Bhutto's widower, Asif Ali Zardari, was elected President in a democratic poll that ended the political career of Pervez Musharraf, the general on whom Washington had relied as a bulwark against the burgeoning al-Qaeda and Taliban forces in his country, as well as home-grown extremists like Baitullah Mehsud. The Marriott bombing drove home the fact that the terror threat most Pakistanis had assumed was directed solely at the West was also aimed at their nuclear-armed but economically hobbled Muslim nation. Still, that didn't help Zardari persuade his Parliament to back the war on terror, as Pakistan's legislature continued to demand negotiations with the militants. The Marriott bombing was a reminder that the wild frontier between Pakistan and Afghanistan remains a fount of menace not only to Afghanistan and the West but also to Pakistan. (Sept. 20)