The Zeitgeist Politics

Global Politics with a focus on The Middle East

Islamic University attacked in Islamabad

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Pakistani security officials collect evidence from the site of a suicide bombing in Islamic University in Islamabad. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

Pakistani security officials collect evidence from the site of a suicide bombing in Islamic University in Islamabad. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

Two suicide attacks took place at the International Islamic University in Islamabad – Pakistan’s capital city – a few hours ago. The attack on the university, which was established in 1980, has seen 5 students killed and several injured. (The figure is changing every minute, so cannot confirm)

The images being aired on news channels are absolutely horrific – blood spattered walls, gore, damaged walls. Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher reported “We can see bits of clothes, scraps of books and a lot more worrying, very thick, dark red blood.”

The attacks happened within minutes of each other. One attacker blew himself up outside the women’s cafeteria and the other in another block of the university. Witnesses told Dawn News that at least three to four thousand students were present at the university at the time of the attacks.

Rehman Malik, the country’s interior minister, has blamed the attack on the university’s security failings, saying a guard let one of the attackers in on the assumption that he worked at the university.

The Pakistani army is currently fighting a war in South Waziristan so this attack in Islamabad is widely being cited as a reaction to the army’s offensive. Educational institutions are being closed in the province of Sindh till Sunday – several cities already had done so as the South Waziristan operation started.

The horrific attack  comes after a series of attacks in Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Lahore and Kohat. The only odd factor I find is that an educational institution was attacked, which seems out of the TTP’s usual pattern. As of late, extremist organizations have attacked security and intelligence installations or colonies where security officials reside, not civilian targets per se. Yes, the TTP and their affiliates have attacked girls’ schools in FATA, and  if they are to blame for this attack it is a truly – for lack of a better word – ominous sign. Yet this is the ‘odd one out’ in the pattern of events, as a Dawn editorial pointed out on October 10 after a car bombing in Peshawar killed 48 people.

Is yesterday’s Peshawar bombing another grim incident in the long war against militancy here or should we also look elsewhere for the culprits? What is striking about the Peshawar blast is the lack of an obvious target. In the past, when the militants have struck it has generally been possible to discern the target: offices or check posts of security personnel; offices or personnel of foreign aid agencies; a branch of a bank belonging to the army; members of the Shia or Barelvi community, etc. This is in keeping with the militants’ strategy of waging a savage war, yes, but not widening it to include indiscriminate attacks against the general population. The norm, therefore, has been to attack the state and its allies, foreign and local, real and imagined, and sectarian targets. But yesterday’s attack has no obvious, or hitherto known, target; it appears to have been indiscriminate and meant to sow terror generally.

I hate it when people point out the ‘foreign hand’ theory, so I’d like to make that clear that that is not what I’m implying. But terrorism just doesn’t have one face in this country; so the fact that Pakistan is facing multiple threats from different organizations and groups  needs to be made clear.

Written by Saba Imtiaz

October 20, 2009 at 9:37 pm

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