Mar 25, 2009

The reign of fear

The national holiday marked to observe Pakistan Day on March 23 was, particularly in the federal capital, quieter than usual. People did not fill parks and eating spots as they usually do when time for recreation is available; there were limited signs of festivity and, of course, no parade was held to mark the occasion. The fact is that fear has taken over lives; people are too afraid to carry out the usual activities of life – and as was proved by the suicide bombing at a police station in the heart of a busy marketplace in Islamabad, their trepidation is not unfounded.Only the brave action of the police constable who embraced the suicide bomber as he entered the police Special Branch station, giving up his own life to save that of others, prevented what could have been far wider mayhem in the federal capital. The unfortunate policemen and the bomber were the only victims of the blast. But we are told by the adviser on interior, who continues to hold his post despite the series of terrorist attacks seen over the past year costing hundreds of lives, that further peril could lie just ahead. He has warned that Uzbek bombers have been dispatched to cities by Baitullah Mehsud, presumably to create more havoc in their midst. Given that such detailed intelligence information is available to authorities who are familiar with the nationality and the movements of the bombers, it seems odd that nothing can apparently be done to stop them before their strike. The fact is that for the present, the bombers and those behind them have succeeded in creating very real fear. This of course is their principal purpose. Somehow this fear must be removed, pushed back out of cities and towns so that people can resume normal lives and blasts such as the one that rocked many parts of Islamabad on Pakistan Day do not ring out in other places over the months ahead.

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