Soul-searching in Pakistan after New York bomb plot

ISLAMABAD (BestGrowthStock) – The attempted car-bombing in New York last weekend by a Pakistani-American man has prompted soul-searching in Pakistan and again raised the uncomfortable question of why the country is a breeding ground for militancy.

Pakistan is a close U.S. ally and thousands of its soldiers have been killed battling Islamist fighters since the government threw its support behind the U.S.-led campaign against militancy in the days after the September 11, 2001, attacks.

But despite the alliance, anti-American feeling runs high among many of Pakistan’s 170 million people, dismayed by what they see as U.S. attacks on fellow Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And although the militants have slaughtered hundreds of people in bomb attacks, many Pakistanis see old rival India as the main threat to their country and at least some Islamist fighters as potential tools in the event of another war with India.

“Why is it that all terrorist routes seem to lead to Pakistan?” the Dawn newspaper asked in an editorial on Thursday.

“It’s been nearly 10 years since 9/11 and still the infrastructure of jihad in urban Pakistan, which is likely the first port of call for those traveling from foreign lands in search of jihad, has not been uprooted,” it said.

U.S. prosecutors say Faisal Shahzad, 30, who was born in Pakistan and became a U.S. citizen last year, has admitted to driving a car bomb into New York’s Times Square.

U.S. investigators are turning their attention to Pakistan and possible links between Shahzad and al Qaeda-linked Pakistani Taliban based in lawless lands along the Afghan border.

The Pakistani army launched sustained offensives against the Pakistani Taliban a year ago, pushing the militants out of several of their most important strongholds and killing many hundreds of fighters, according to the military.

But feelings in Pakistan are often mixed toward the militants.

“CONTRADICTIONS”

Pakistan was founded as a homeland for South Asia’s Muslims in 1947 and Islamist holy war was nurtured as a national cause in pushing Soviet forces out of neighboring Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Later, Islamist fighters battling Indian forces in the disputed Muslim-majority region of Kashmir were lionized as heroes, fighting to “liberate” Kashmiris from what most Pakistanis see as Indian oppression.

Analysts have long said that sections of the security forces see some Islamist groups as “assets” for promoting Pakistani interests in its decades-old confrontation with India and in Afghanistan, where Pakistan worries about growing Indian sway.

The liberal Daily Times said the attempted Times Square bombing had again dealt a sharp blow to Pakistan’s image.

“The abortive Times Square bombing has once again exposed the inherent contradictions in Pakistan’s policy of dealing with militancy germinating from its soil,” the paper said.

Pakistan was likely to come under intense U.S. pressure, especially if a link was made between the Times Square bomber and the northwestern Pakistani region of North Waziristan, it said.

The army has held off a major offensive in North Waziristan, partly, analysts say, because the main militant factions there are Afghan Taliban who have not been attacking in Pakistan and could prove useful in achieving Afghan policy goals.

But North Waziristan is increasingly being seen as a refuge for Pakistani Taliban fighters bringing carnage to Pakistani streets and plotting mayhem beyond.

“Pakistan’s equivocal support to the war against terror has yielded bitter fruits in the form of international isolation and terror engulfing almost the entire country,” the Daily Times said.

“It is time the security establishment rethought its policy of treating certain militant groups as assets and takes prompt action against them before the U.S. loses patience and considers acting against them without involving Pakistan.”

Stock Market Today

(Writing by Robert Birsel; Editing by Chris Allbritton)

Soul-searching in Pakistan after New York bomb plot