I got some on-the-ground insights yesterday from one of our contributors in Afghanistan and today I heard from our Pakistan correspondent, Mustafa Qadri, about the mood in Pakistan since the military there launched its offensive in Waziristan. Since it began, there have been a series of attacks on civilians, including in Peshawar, where dozens were killed in an attack earlier this week, and there are reports coming in of an attack today on the intelligence agency headquarters there.
Mustafa told me what he’s been doing the last couple of weeks, and what he is seeing and hearing from Pakistanis.
‘It’s been a busy past few weeks here in Pakistan. After travelling to the Swat valley to cover the region’s recovery from the recent fighting against the Taliban, I met with security officials in Islamabad and Peshawar to discuss the recent suicide bombings. The police alone say they have captured or prevent 67 individuals from carrying suicide attacks, most recently in a dramatic confrontation at a barricade in Islamabad. The once sleepy city has been transformed into something of a fortress with checkpoints, cement barriers and earnest policeman dotting the landscape along with the trees and mansions. There is no doubt about it, Pakistan is at war and the signs are everywhere.
‘I speak to ordinary citizens here every day, it’s part of my job. And there’s immense trepidation and confusion over the violence. Many note that ordinary Muslims are being killed by people claiming to fight in the name of Islam. This obvious hypocrisy has some convinced that foreign intelligence agencies are behind the violence, an idea that is supported by government intelligence officials I’ve spoken to. Amongst the chaos, though, I can’t help wondering if much of this finger pointing is a means of coping with the troubling reality that this is a civil war waged not with outside forces, but enemies within Pakistan society. In that context, Pakistani authorities have done a remarkable job of, by and large, maintaining the peace and security. That message is usually forgotten in the international headlines.’