Terrorists' message for Zardari
Bruce Loudon, Analysis | September 22, 2008
THE attack on the Marriott hotel in Islamabad is Pakistan's September 11.
The suicide bombing demonstrates the extent to which the nuclear-armed US ally
is under threat from al-Qa'ida and Taliban militants.
Among the ruins of the hotel is a clear message: no target in Pakistan is
beyond the militants, who believe they can bring the country to its knees.
The Government is caught between the militant advance through the country and
the demands from the US, which is extremely unpopular among most Pakistanis.
The perception that the Zardari Government is a tool of the US has played a
significant part in the blast. Even though it has been at loggerheads with
Washington over cross-border raids against militants, the Government remains
closely allied to the West in the fight against al-Qa'ida and the Taliban.
A leading commentator on Pakistani affairs, Brian Glyn Williams, associate
professor of Islamic history at the University of Massachusetts, said
"Pakistan's alliance with Washington is what this is all about.
"The attack on the hotel is a message to the Pakistani leadership - end all
co-operation with the Americans or pay the price," Professor Williams said.
"Both sides see Pakistan as a vital battlefield in their global struggle, and
clearly Pakistani civilians are paying the price for being in the middle of
this struggle," he said.
"It's a replay of Baghdad at its worst. But with a very significant difference
- while most Pakistanis would decry the bombing, there is also an overwhelming
feeling that Pakistan, both under the military regime (of former president
Pervez Musharraf) and now under the new civilian Government, has gone too far
in supporting the US and the West in their war against al-Qa'ida and the
Marvin Weinbaum, a former Pakistan intelligence analyst at the US State
Department, said the Marriott attack was designed to destabilise the Government
and to shatter international confidence in Mr Zardari's leadership.
"This is part of the larger campaign to destabilise the country and to show the
new Government cannot keep the country secure and that the militants can strike
anywhere, any time they want," Dr Weinbaum said.
"But I think it's important to point out that the nature of the target was
meant to have international repercussions."
The White House has condemned the bombing and repeated its support for the
But privately, US officials say Pakistan's leaders are doing too little to stop
"The US has felt under pressure to take unilateral action, which has raised the
temperature between the US and Pakistan," said Lisa Curtis, a former senior
adviser on South Asian issues in the State Department.
"But I think this attack on the Marriott ... just demonstrates that Pakistan
itself is a victim of terrorism, and this fight against terrorism is its own
battle, as Zardari himself has said."
Additional reporting: AFP, AP