Understandable gloom all round today after a major bomb blast at a market in Peshawar in Pakistan yesterday. The blast, which came as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was visiting Islamabad, claimed more than 100 lives, and has sparked renewed warnings about the possibility of the country sliding into civil war.
An op-ed by journalist Abdus Sattar Ghazali yesterday sums up the mood of those warning that the offensive by Pakistan’s efforts to fight militants could further destabilise the country:
‘The pro-government tribes are being armed by the Pakistan government. Many pro-government tribal leaders have been killed. A suicide bomb attack on a pro-government tribal jirga in Orakzai killed at least 51 people and more than 200 wounded last year.To add fuel to the fire, the Interior Minister this week announced raising a students’ militia to combat terrorism. For sure, this will further divide the polarized society.’
Ghazali also reiterates what our Pakistan correspondent told me, that the latest military operation in Waziristan is being conducted under a media blackout, with journalists banned from the area.
Under these conditions, rumours are rife, as amply demonstrated by Ghazali’s speculation over whether notorious US private security firm Blackwater is involved:
‘The US has gradually increased its covert presence in Pakistan. There are reports that Iraq ill-famed US private mercenary army Blackwater is operating in Pakistan freely. It is not only operating in Peshawar but now in Islamabad under a front Washington-based company, Creative Associates International Inc (CAII) which has opened an office in Peshawar to work on projects in the nearby tribal agencies of Pakistan. All of these projects, interestingly, are linked to the US government.’
Comments like these are proof if any was needed that the Pakistan government’s decision to block media access is already backfiring.