The rescue effort continues after yesterday’s deadly suicide bombing on Islamabad’s Marriott Hotel, and with the full toll of the blast still not known a nation which has become increasingly accustomed to terrorist attacks is now reflecting on the consequences of what many are calling “Pakistan’s 9/11.” The conclusions are almost universally negative.
Several analysts have questioned the overall security strategy since the attack, and former director general of one of Pakistan’s civilian spy agencies Masood Sharif said that “this should not surprise anybody.” He derided the focus on beefing up security and launching military offensives and called for a negotiated settlement, saying “you already have 150,000 troops deployed. What more can you do? You’ve gone to the limit of trying to control it with the gun.”
But controlling it with the gun appears to be exactly the strategy the government is set upon. With General Parvez Kayani expressing his army’s resolve to fight terrorism, the Interior Ministry announced a new “large operation” into the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Pakistan’s military has already been engaged in a massive offensive in FATA’s Bajaur Agency for over a month. Several security guards have also reportedly been suspended amid talk of “lapses” ahead of the blast.
The hotel was a popular destination for foreign dignitaries, and many were inside at the time of the attack. Though this would hardly be the first time foreigners have been targeted inside Pakistan, many westerners are reportedly considering leaving the troubled nation.
Thus far no organization has stepped forward to claim responsibility for the attack, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said preliminary investigations suggested a strong connection with South Waziristan. The South Waziristan Agency is also in FATA, and has been the site of many of the controversial attacks by US forces, including one earlier this week which killed seven and led to a large tribal jirga in the area declaring its intent to “take up arms against the US.”
And while world leaders rushed to condemn the strike speculation still abounds as to the motives of the attackers. Prime Minister Raza Gilani said that his house was the original target, but inaccessible due to tight security. But a report from several witnesses including a Pakistani MP who saw US Marines loading mysterious steel boxes into the hotel late last week is likely to add fuel to the report that the marines were the real target of the attack. Pakistani media reports that the Pentagon confirmed that two marines were among those killed in the blast.