Bombings in Islamabad, Kabul

Two Iraq-style suicide bombings hit South Asia in the past 24 hours.

On Sunday, a suicide bomber hit a police checkpoint in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, killing 17 and wounding 54. Most of the dead were police. Some speculated that the bombing was meant as a grim commemoration of the storming of the Red Mosque last year this time, when Pakistani troops took on armed militants within the complex. A conference was being held on the attack last year.

AP also noted that Sunday’s attack came in the wake of pledges of reprisals issued by the Pakistani Taliban because of Pakistani military operations against them in the Khyber area.


Courtesy Dawn.

CBS has video at Youtube (aren’t you glad they split from Viacom?):

The attack comes as the elected civilian government comes to the end of its first 100 days with few of its various crises resolved. This Reuters piece convincingly explains Asaf Ali Zardari’s reluctance to reinstate the Supreme Court, which was high-handedly dismissed by President Pervez Musharraf last fall, as deriving from his own fears that the justices might revive corruption cases against him (i.e. against Zardari). Zardari, nicknamed “Mr. 10 percent,” has a reputation for demanding kickbacks on contracts with foreign concerns.

Then a suicide bomber struck at the Indian Embassy in Kabul, killing 28 persons and wounding 141. The Indian ambassador was not there at the time, but Indian embassy guards and possibly other Embassy personnel appear to have been killed.

India has 3,000 nationals doing reconstruction work in Afghanistan. Since the neo-Taliban want to pull down the Karzai government, trying to scare the Indians into leaving would be a way of removing one foreign pillar of support from the edifice of state.

Since the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence is alleged to be secretly backing some Taliban elements, there is a danger that New Delhi will read this assault on its embassy in Kabul as an indirect strike by Pakistan. Pakistan had long considered Afghanistan its sphere of influence (which the military called its ‘strategic depth’ against India). Pakistan exercised its regional hegemony through the Taliban in the 1990s. The Northern Alliance gradually allied with India, Russia and Iran. The Taliban were mostly Pushtun, while the Northern Alliance was Tajik (Persian-speaking), Hazarah (ditto but Shiite) and Uzbek. So from a Pakistani and Pushtun Taliban point of view, when the US put the Northern Alliance in charge of Kabul in late 2001, it more or less turned Afghanistan into an Indian sphere of influence. Pakistan is unhappy about this change, which helps explain why its military may be backing some Pushtun Taliban again.

But my own guess is that the strike on the Indian embassy was unrelated to Pakistan and was meant to end Indian economic and reconstruction assistance to Karzai, since that aide helps him stay in power and the neo-Taliban want to overthrow him.

The bombing in Kabul came after allegations over the weekend that the US had mistakenly bombed a wedding party and earlier had also killed civilians in another area in an air strike aimed at militants.