Two bombings shook the northern Pakistani city of Peshawar on Monday, killing 27 and wounding over 50 persons. Ironically, one bomb hit a rally of the fundamentalist Jama’at-i Islami (Islamic Grouping), a group that has sometimes been relatively sympathetic to the Taliban. Peshawar, a city of over 3 million, is about the size of Chicago (within city limits). It is the capital of the newly-named Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa province, where the Pashtun ethnicity predominates, in Pakistan’s northwest. It is the largest big city near to the fierce fighting between the Pakistani army and the Pakistani Taliban, in Swat, South Waziristan, and Orakzai (in the nearby Federally Administered Tribal Areas).
A suicide bomber appears to be responsible for the big explosion at the Qissa Khani (Story-Tellers’) Bazaar in the Old City. A rally had just been held by the Jama’at-i Islami, a powerful fundamentalist party. Either they were targeted by the Pakistani Taliban, or they happened to be in the wrong place when the Taliban struck at the deputy super-intendent of police. The Jami’at al-Ulama Islam (the Clerical Association of Islam), led by parliamentarian and cleric Fazlur Rahman, had three party workers slightly injured.
The district deputy superintendent of police was killed, and some think he was the target of the blast. Others believe that the JI rally was itself the target.
The Jama’at-i Islami is not itself violent, but its leaders have sometimes denied that al-Qaeda exists and acted in ways that shield the violent fundamentalists.
The Jama’at immediately blamed the Pakistani government for failing to provide security, tying itself into knots.
If the the Jamaat turns decisively on the Taliban, that would be a major defeat for that sort of terrorism.