After a horrible attack like this, the question becomes will Pakistan use it as a rallying point to finally wage a real fight against the terrorists hiding out in caves on their Afghanistan boarder? Or will they do what Spain did, put their heads in the sand and give in to terrorism? Dr Walid Phares examines this question below:
Jihadi Hellish message to Pakistan By Walid Phares As shown by world networks, the hellish flames ravaging the Mariott Hotel in Islamabad seemed like a vision of the Apocalypse. That’s at least how many survivors of the Terror attack that massacred more than 60 and wounded hundreds have described it: “The end of the World.” But beyond the barbaric bloodshed and the human suffering ensuing, the heavy question fuses fast: How to read this Jihadi mayhem and what is the message behind the bombing?
When a war is raging, as is the case in Pakistan for the last years, analysts won’t wait on the procedural investigation to determine the identity of the perpetrators of this attack. Local police and security forces will get somewhere sometime. The graver question is about the big picture. What is al Qaeda and their Taliban herds up to, by terrorizing the people and Government of the second largest Muslim country in the world and -more important- the first Islamic nation to possess nuclear weapons? According to many Pakistani sources commenting to media after the explosion, including Lt General Talaat Massud the Terror attack has a “loud and clear message.” He asserted that those behind the operation “wants to tell the Pakistani Government to stop sending the Army into their (Taliban) areas and to oppose any intervention (against al Qaeda) inside Pakistan by the United States.” Massud comments, aired on BBC were firm: “This is a mega explosion and it needs mega decisions in the country, more will come.” Read More »
In terms of targeting, indeed the blast ravaged a very prominent land mark in the capital where foreigners and Pakistani personalities often swing by. Moreover, the Jihadists hit hard in the city’s nervous center. In the vicinity of the Parliament -where the new President just finished an acceptance speech- of the house of the Prime Minister and of many ministers, of the judiciary and other significant headquarters, this strike is heavy with a multi pages message.
Undoubtedly the first page is addressed to the new President and his cabinet. The War between the “Jihadi Islamists” of all kinds and the secular coalition led by the “People’s Party” formerly headed by the late Benazir Bhutto is on. Indeed, while many in the US and the West doubted former President Musharraf’s ability or political will to take the fight comprehensively to the tribal areas, newly elected President Aif Ali Zardari and his Prime Minister Yosaf Raza Gilani have repetitively committed to confront the “fundamentalists and terrorists.” A one year long reading of this “struggle” shows that the Taliban have targeted the secular “People’s Party” since its chances to come to power were increasing. After a failed attempt at her life, the Jihadists finally assassinated Bhutto. But the come back of her party in the last elections brought her widow to the top office. The “Bhutto leadership” reaffirmed their intention to take on the Jihadi Terrorists. Strong with a popular support, including among women and youth, the secular political coalition was considered as top danger by the armed Islamists. Hence, the logic of the Mariott attack. It was chiefly to strike at the forthcoming ideological advance against the Jihadists. In short this was a preemptive blow against a Government which may not hesitate in engaging a battle of ideas against the medieval forces in Waziristan and against the circles of Jihadophiles in Islamabad. From their hideouts, Bin Laden, Zawahiri and Mullah Umar have urged their Pakistani brethren to smite the head of the secular establishment in the country. Pakistan could be the biggest prize ever, if it falls into the hands of the Taliban and their urban allies. But to do so, the current democratically elected Government and the President must be removed. And prior to this, the Armed forces have to stop their raids into the north western valleys.
But the second page of the message is about US role. This is a warning to Pakistani civilian and military authorities to break all ties to the American-led campaign against Terror. But more precisely to reject NATO incursions after al Qaeda inside Pakistan. Already the new public agenda of the current Administration in Islamabad openly warns against US raids across the borders for domestic political reasons. The new President pledged, few hours before the explosion, that he will carry the campaign against the Terrorists but at the same time he will refuse American military interventions on his national soil. The Jihadi bloodshed in the city is a “mega-warning” that al Qaeda and the Taliban will respond inside the country against pressure coming from across the border.
In the end, the Jihadist plan can be summarized as follow:
1. Intimidate the Government into a pull back position
2. Containing the Pakistani military efforts against Waziristan
3. Create a wedge between the Army and the Government
4. Trigger a crisis between Washington and Islamabad
But a more daring investigation of the propaganda goals sought by the Jihadists may project that by enflaming the situation in Pakistan and by ripple effect in Afghanistan, the architects of international terror wants to heat up the debate in the US Presidential election as well. The war room of al Qaeda has demonstrated in the past years that it also aim at manipulating public opinion “behind enemy lines” as well. By fueling the violence inside Pakistan the propagandists would demonstrate that US attention to that country was minimal in contrast to American involvement in Iraq. Well manipulated by operatives in the region’s media, this snowball argumentation can stir the debate into a desired shift in public opinion. The days ahead may show additional evidence as to the complex game played in this most dangerous place on the Planet.
Dr Walid Phares is the Director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and a visiting scholar at the European Foundation for Democracy in Brussels. He is the author of this year’s released The Confrontation: Winning the War against Future Jihad.