Friday, September 19, 2008

Friday in Pakistan With Zardari

It doesn't have quite the ring of Tuesdays With Morrie, but it will have to do.

Asif Ali Zardari is going to be speaking to the Pakistani parliament for the first time this weekend since becoming President of Pakistan. He's got plenty on his plate with the Taliban and Islamists running rampant and having to deal with the dicey issue of al Qaeda and Taliban attacks into Pakistan followed by US airstrikes and possible ground actions against al Qaeda strongholds in the NWFP and Warizistan. The Pakistani government has been quite vocal about attacking US forces should they enter Pakistani territory, but one could only wish for such a strong reaction to the Taliban's and Islamists' actions inside Pakistan.

For the Americans, such raids and airstrikes are meant to disrupt the possibility of future 9/11 style attacks originating or planned within the safe havens of Warizistan, the NWFP, as well as improving security along the Afghan/Pakistani border region in general.

We're still in the middle of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, and we once again have seen a spate of bombings. Bombers detonated a bomb at a school near Quetta, killing at least five people. That's on the heels of another explosion in Islamabad that killed seven people, though the circumstances of that explosion are unclear. Some suggest that it was a gas cylinder. Other sources claim it was a gas leak. Authorities aren't treating it as a terror attack though. Still, every time there's an explosion of some sort, the first thought is to a terror attack (and most incidents in Pakistan are indeed terror attacks).

A much more substantial attack was thwarted when tribesmen thwarted a Taliban attempt to kidnap 300 students. Two terrorists blew themselves up rather than be captured.
Two suspected suicide bombers blew themselves up in the Upper Dir town on Thursday after residents foiled their attempt to take 300 schoolchildren hostage, police said.

The men entered into the town from Swat valley but people from the area chased them away, local police officer Johar Ali told AFP. They took refuge in a school building then and tried to take students hostage, local news agencies said, but police and villagers forced them to flee from there as well.

Two of them then tried to take refuge in a forest where an exchange of gunfire took place, and later detonated the explosives strapped to their bodies, Johar Ali said. The state-run APP news agency said a third man fled, but Online said he was arrested.

“Showing extreme courage and boldness”, the residents of a village in Upper Dir district “foiled attempt of the armed militants to take hostage around 300 students of a school and successfully freed the students” after a fierce gunbattle, said an APP report about the incident.
Meanwhile, also of concern to Zardari is the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. Muslims leaving mosques in the disputed Kashmir engaged in rock-throwing and rioting had to be dispersed with tear gas. At least 50 were injured, including many police. This isn't the first time that's happened either, and tensions remain high along the Line of Control.

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