In a major breakthrough, the security agencies have a big lead in investigations into the bombings at Wah. The third suicide bomber arrested on the spot is cooperating with the authorities and has provided many details about his network and these details have raised more questions about the role of India in Afghanistan.
The would-be suicide bomber, Hameedullah Khan, belongs to the Khyber Agency. He revealed during the investigation that his network of suicide bombers would try to hit important installations in Peshawar, Kohat and Nowshera in the near future.
Interestingly, Hameedullah Khan is not from Swat or Bajaur where the security forces are conducting operations and there was no question that the bombing was in retaliation to the operations in Swat or Bajaur.
He is sure that other two suicide bombers were also from the Khyber area. Security agencies have doubts over the claim of Maulvi Omer of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, who accepted responsibility for Thursday's bombings. His claim is viewed as an attempt to blackmail the government.
Officials supervising the investigation into Thursday's bombings were not ready to believe that Hameedullah Khan was a part of any group active in South Waziristan, Swat or Bajaur. He spent most of his time in Khyber with some other bombers in total isolation. He was not aware about the details of the operation in Bajaur because he was not allowed to come out of his hideout in Khyber for more than a month. His handlers told him that the Pakistan Army was collaborating with the enemies of Islam and killing their own fellow Muslims and attacking the Pakistan Army would be a Jihad.
Now major newspapers of Pakistan have been accepting that al-Qaeda is present in Pakistan. According to Daily Times editorial comment, Pakistan is being prime target of al-Qaeda.
Two suicide bombers blew themselves up outside Pakistan's main army munitions factory at Wah on Thursday, killing 70 workers in "the deadliest attack on a military installation in the country's history"-. The Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) owned the attack, its leader Maulvi Umar saying, "Our bombers carried out today's attack. It is in reaction to military operations in Swat and Bajaur. Similar attacks will be carried out in other cities of Pakistan including Lahore, Islamabad and Rawalpindi"-.
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani's reaction was that Pakistan had to "take the war on terror to extremists' doorsteps because it cannot be won on the defensive"-. Mr Rehman Malik, adviser to the prime minister on security, said, "Some foreign hands might be involved in terror activities in DI Khan, Kurram Agency and Swat". On the other hand, the leader of Jama'at-e Islami, Qazi Hussain Ahmad, asked the government to "pull out troops" from the Tribal Areas and bring "relief" to the displaced persons of Bajaur, Kurram and Waziristan.
Many Urdu newspapers have begun to reverse the incidence of mobilisation in the Tribal Areas. Instead of saying that troops have been sent to the Tribal Areas in response to terrorism, they editorialise that suicide-bombing trouble in the big cities has started after the troops were sent into the Tribal Areas. Thereafter, some have squarely placed the blame on the policy of following the "American diktat" in a negation of Pakistan's sovereignty. Most TV anchors on Thursday night followed the same cue. On Thursday too, protesting lawyers in Lahore were seen holding placards bearing pro-Al Qaeda slogans for the first time since their protests for an "independent judiciary" began.
Clearly, the Pakistani mind is changing under pressure from the Al Qaeda strategy of suicide bombing. In the same week, Al Qaeda struck in Algeria, killing 43. A suicide-bombing attack place in Mersin in Turkey too, followed by one in DI Khan in Pakistan killing 30 shias in a hospital, and 10 French soldiers at Salopi in Afghanistan were killed by a group of suicide-bombers. Thus the world watches the mental landscape being created so easily by Al Qaeda by brainwashing youths to kill themselves in the name of Islam. In Pakistan, the politicians are divided today but could conceivably part ways on how Al Qaeda's plan of setting up a state of its own should be tackled.
The operation in Bajaur has started without complete consensus inside the coalition government. When it began, the PMLN complained that it should have been consulted, as though that would have made an iota of a difference to its obviously opportunist position. Indeed, everyone says the issue should have been brought under discussion in parliament. But if that had happened, surely the cleavages would have come to the fore clearly, immobilising everyone. Another party in the coalition, the JUIF, is openly opposed to sending the army into the Tribal Areas and has an anti-American posture, linking the trouble to "Pakistan's blind obedience of the United States".
Only the prime minister and the ANP think differently. In fact, the ANP goes one step beyond where the interior ministry is standing today. It traces the trouble in the Tribal Areas not to India but to Islamabad's covert support to the Taliban in the past that has recoiled on Pakistan today. And the ANP also implies that Islamabad may have a split mind over the policy of taking on the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Thus, if you examine the mindset of the coalition, two parties are opposed to the operations, one is inclined to buy the establishment line that it is India that is interfering in the Tribal Areas, and one is clearly opposed to the Taliban and suspects Islamabad's hand in the trouble.
The truth is that the Bajaur operation has hurt the TTP. We are not told about it officially but the fact is that Bajaur is more sensitive than even South Waziristan where the TTP emirate's capital is located under the leadership of Baitullah Mehsud. Ahmed Rashid in his latest book Descent into Chaos: How the War against Islamic Extremism is being Lost in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia, tells us why Bajaur may be an important location for Al Qaeda. In January 2006, the US hit Damadola in Bajaur with a missile and killed five senior Al Qaeda members. The attempt was aimed at killing Ayman Al Zawahiri who had his local Pashtun wife living there and visited occasionally to meet her (p.276).
The Pakistani mind is turning pro-Al Qaeda in the same measure as it is turning against the government in Pakistan. The fundamental reason is the inability of the state to protect its citizens and assert its writ on its territory. Past military strategies have caused the state power to decline in relation to those that it allowed to wage jihad. Unless the state fights back with all the means at its disposal and defeats the terrorists, it will be seriously endangered. And the final shock will come, not from Al Qaeda, but from the economy which is slowly giving up the function of sustaining Pakistan's population.