Pakistanis deeply divided over war against Islamist extremists

October 10th, 2008 - 1:51 pm ICT by ANI  


Islamabad, Oct 10 (ANI): Pakistanis remain deeply divided over whether the war against Islamist extremism should be fought by Pakistan alone, with US assistance or not at all. But in the midst of a seemingly unending series of suicide bomb attacks across the country, the public debate over terrorism appears to be taking on a new sense of urgency.

On Thursday, Pakistani lawmakers met for a second day with the countrys top security officials in a rare, closed-door parliamentary session devoted to the violence that has gripped the country, the Washington Post reported.

The unusual move follows a sharp rise in the number of US missile strikes on alleged al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives in northwestern Pakistan, near the Afghan border, the paper said.

Two missiles, reportedly fired by a US Predator drone, crashed into houses in Pakistans remote tribal areas on Thursday evening and killed at least six, Pakistani officials said.

Officials in Washington, while not officially acknowledging a US role, said the attacks are needed to combat insurgents whom the Pakistani government is unable or unwilling to target.

But the strikes have inflamed tensions locally and have drawn rebukes from Pakistans fledgling civilian government.

We really have to define the enemy. Im seeing a divergence in the enemies of the US and the enemies of Pakistan, said opposition lawmaker Dastigir Khan.

The US is not hitting the targets that Pakistan thinks need to be hit. There might be some sort of overlap, but mostly the US enemies are different from Pakistans. Islamabad is focused on these homegrown Taliban, whereas the US has different targets in mind, he said.

The rugged, ungoverned borderland between Afghanistan and Pakistan is a safe haven for Islamist insurgents from around the world. US officials believe the area to be the hiding place of al-Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, among others.

Nearly three weeks after suicide bombers killed more than 50 people and injured scores in an attack at the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, few here believe a solution to the security dilemma will be found quickly or easily.

Both the United Nations and the British Embassy recently ordered staff to send their families home and placed all of their employees on high alert.

That sort of concern appears to be increasing for many Pakistanis, not just foreigners. But amid the fears, government officials have been conspicuously absent from public view.

The silence and lack of a coherent government response to the bombings have frustrated many Pakistanis. The multimillion-dollar ad campaign that calls on the country to Say No to Terrorism is only one sign of the dire turn in public perceptions of security. (ANI)

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