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KARACHI BOMBING October 20, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in South Asia, Terrorism Issues.
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The Karachi bombing, apparently directed against Benazir Bhutto on her return to Pakistan after five years exile, and the other Pakistani bombings appear to be contrary to the anlaysis of suicide bombing by Robert A Pape. The puzzle is that Pakistan is a Muslim country, albeit with Sunni and Shia populations, and other ethnic tensions from its disaffected Baluchi and Pashtun populations among others.

Professor Pape explained the results of his study published in his book, Dying to Win – The Logic of Suicide Bombing, to Charles Coyette in a radio program that can be found at Anti-War.Com. He made three main points. Statistics on suicide bombing had not been kept before the attacks of 11 September 2001 by most governments, although I suspect that Israel may be an exception. The overwhelming instances of suicide bombing he reported from his data over 462 suicide attackers from 1980 to 2004 suggested an ethnic population sought to “compel a democratic state to withdrawal of combat forces from the territory they prize”. Typically the resistance movement, as in Iraq, was confronted with superior military force (perhaps importantly dominant air power?), which resulted in classic asymmetrical warfare. Religions according to Robert Pape’s analysis was a second-order factor. The Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka are marxist and secular, while the Tamil population is Hindu, whereas the Sinhalese, who dominate the government, are Buddhist. The attacked groups paints the occupier or aggressors as dominated by religious motivations.

The reports seem to be categorical now that the attack presumably on Benzir Bhutto’s possession, with reports of a turnout of 200,000, was a suicide attack. Later reports suggest that a hand grenade was thrown, then a truck bomb was exploded, killing both civilians and police. The hand grenade story is not being reported consistently, some reports, as for al Jareera have a car exploding. The Guardian with a audio interview reported that the attack was carefully planned. The BBC reported Bhutto’s husband in Dubai suggested that it might be the work of the Pakistan Secret Service. Intuitively that does not fit since Bhutto had returned with the approval of President Pervez Musharraf, with the support of the American Government. Benazir Bhutto later blamed the bombing on supporteers of GeneralZia ul-Haq, who imprisoned and hanged her father following the military coup after the formation of Bangladesh.

At least if the analysis of Robert Pape is correct, suicide bombings do not come out of the blue, and nor have they been associated with the actions of governments, which points to the tribal areas and the borders with Afghanistan as a possible source. Understanding the war in the tribal areas of Western Pakistan can added by considering the distribution of the major ethnic and linguistic groups in the country. The following map illustrates that the Pashtun dominated areas extend over the borders of Pakistan and Afghanistan to incidentally Iran. The Pashtuns tend to be Sunnis, hence an affinity among fundamentalists in the tribal areas with Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda.

(click on map for full image)

pakistan_ethnic_groups.jpg
According to Wikipedia Pakistan had an estimated population of a 169 million in 2007. Punjabis are in the majority but there are other ethnic groups. Wikipedia observes:

The Punjabi population is estimated to comprise 44.15% of the national total. The Pukhtuns are the second-largest group at roughly 15.42%, followed by Sindhis at 14.1%. Seraikis, a group seen as transitional between Punjabis and Sindhis, make up 10.53% of the population. The remaining groups that comprise large percentages include the Muhajirs at 7.57% and the Balochis at 3.57%. The other main ethnic groups include the Brahui, Kashmiri, Hindko Pukhtuns, and the various peoples of the Northern Areas, who all together total roughly 4.66% of the total population. The Pukhtun and Baloch represent two of the major populations that are linguistically Iranic , while the Punjabis, Sindhis and Seraikis are the major linguistically Indic groups. Muhajir population is an multi ethnical group, and include mixed blood lines of Afghans, Persians, Turks, Mongols, Arabs and Indians.

Paul Reynolds at the BBC provides a summary analysis:

The nightmare in the West is that the Taleban and its supporters, already entrenched in the tribal areas of Pakistan and fighting a war in Afghanistan, will exert a permanent and destabilising influence on Pakistani politics. Only this summer, Pakistani forces stormed the Red Mosque, which had been taken over by militants. It is thought that Benazir Bhutto’s support for action against Osama bin Laden was one of the reasons that threats were made against her – and probably the reason for the suicide attack. Washington had once hoped that the war to remove the Taleban from Afghanistan after 9/11 would lead to peace. It might have done for a brief period but now the problem is back.

But Pakistan’s crises go wider that the Taleban and al-Qaeda. Pakistan has never managed to develop a settled, democratic form of government, but has always been subject to the violent swing of political pendulums. It is never far away from violence. It was closely involved in the war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. It has fought wars with India over the issue it was born with and still faces – the dispute over Kashmir. This has bred generations of militants, who have launched attacks within Indian-controlled Kashmir and major Indian cities. Militancy with a Pakistani connection has also been evident in Britain. The British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, condemning the attack on Ms Bhutto, noted that 70% of the plots in Britain were linked to Pakistan.

And nobody forgets that Pakistan has nuclear weapons. These have been the source of further trouble, because their creator, AQ Khan, secretly gave away his nuclear secrets in defiance of the international treaty against the proliferation of nuclear weapons.Ms Bhutto hoped that by going back, she could change all that and restore Pakistan to a democratic path. But her way has now been blocked. And nor can Pakistan withdraw from international politics and try to concentrate on facing up to its own internal challenges, in which the economic disparity between rich and poor continues to feature strongly.

General Musharraf is seen by the United States as the rock on which its policies in the region are based. It is in the US’ interest to see him continue in power, one way or another.
For Pakistan, there is no escape from its place at the centre of the post 9/11 world and its cockpit role in the US-declared war on terror.

There have been several suicide bombings in Pakistan, including one in early September specifically targeting a army base. Mention might be made that as in Suharto’s Indonesia reportedly the military class in Pakistan have become major holders of land and businesses. Part of the reason for the enthusiasm for Benazir Bhutto’s report were given as unemployment and other forms of economic distress. Musharraf has ordered the security services to report on the cause of the bombing.

Before arriving back in Pakistan Bhutto was upbeat about what she might accomplice, although she realistically identified a significant constitutional problem, which would see Musharraf holding the wipe hand if she became prime minister and he remained as president. Nevertheless, using the future perfect, BB predicted that 2007 would be seen as a turning point in which moderation and democracy gained the ascendancy. Anne Penketh reported in The Independent:

Ms Bhutto, 54, wants the “moderate middle” to be “mobilised to stand up to fanaticism. And I want to lead that struggle.” She says she is older and wiser now.

Her years spent outside Pakistan have been “as useful” as her time in government. She argues that as long as the president has the power to sack the prime minister, the head of state will be tempted to use that power. “Every single prime minister has been sacked for the same charges of malgovernance and corruption since this power was introduced,” she said referring to her demand for the presidential prerogative to be curtailed.

But, “there are many things I would do differently this time,” she went on. She puts social issues, such as education and health, at the heart of her policies. In tribal areas, where she says people are living in the “Stone Age”, the building of new schools would offer “teaching and knowledge independent of the political madrassas” which have nurtured radical Islam.

Johann Hart in The Independent described the Islamic Fundamentalism as a form of blowback. It had he suggested been promoted by the government or military, perhaps in coordination with the Americans and Saudis at the time of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and later, and then discouraged when Musharraf took the dollars on offer, but the genie was out of the bottle. G W Bush continues to be bellicose and unilateral, despite the outstanding success of this policy in Iraq. The Independent reported:

Last month, President George Bush signalled his willingness to strike targets inside Pakistan, while declining to say that he would seek Islamabad’s consent. “With real actionable intelligence,” he said, “we will get the job done”.

Musharraf has ordered the security services to report on the cause of the bombing within 48 hours. One Pakistani newspaper has already attributed the bombing to Al Qaeda, and it seems if these reports are to be believed that the military will be upping the anti in the areas that border Afghanistan. If that is true it would appear that the return of Benazir Bhutto instead of offering the possibility of a political solution will develop into an intensified war against the Pashtun guerrillas, which in turn because of its disproportional dimensions is likely to increase the incidence of suicide bombing in which a corrupt military government, with principal support from the US fights against a fundamentalist resistance.

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