The locale of the latest spasm of violence to strike Pakistan — a car bomb attack that killed 100 people — wasn’t surprising. Perched on the fringe of the Taliban-infested badlands along the Afghan border, Peshawar has been hit several times by bombings that have claimed scores of lives this year.
But the target Wednesday marked a disturbing twist in the Islamic militants’ agenda: a bustling market that catered to women, many of them with children in tow. [continued…]
As Pakistan’s army battles with guns and jets to wrest control of the restive South Waziristan region from the Taliban, it remains unclear whether the military will have another kind of ammunition it desperately needs: the support of people who have lived in the militants’ grip for years.
Among refugees who were jostling for donated blankets last week in this dusty town in North-West Frontier Province, few dared to discuss the Taliban fighters controlling their villages. Several whispered that there was no graver offense than speaking against the Taliban and seemed fearful that breaching that rule would cost them once the offensive — which several referred to as an artificial “drama” cooked up to satisfy the United States — was over.
“The operation is a joke just to please the foreign masters,” said Saidalam Mehsud, 59, a burly driver. “Whenever the dollars are floating into Pakistan, such operations are carried out.”
In the past week, refugees said, their doubts about the offensive have intensified because they have seen little evidence of the ground operation that Pakistan’s military says has killed nearly 200 insurgents. Although many said shells and bombs had been raining on the hilly terrain all week, some hitting houses of civilians, none said they had seen government soldiers in the area. [continued…]