The pattern in Pakistanís violence

A motorcycle-borne suicide bomber, who rammed into a bus on Thursday in Sargodha, which houses Pakistan's largest air force base, killed eight PAF personnel and injured 40 others. This is the most recent addition to the tragic litany of internal violence that has been wracking the Musharraf regime over the last month. October has been particularly severe for Pakistan and includes the Karachi blood-bath of October 18, when Benazir Bhutto's home-coming convoy was attacked. On October 30, yet another suicide bomber killed seven, including four security personnel barely two kilometres from the Pak Army HQ in Rawalpindi.

This is the tip of the iceberg as far as the spiralling pattern of internal killings and suicide bomb attacks are concerned. The more significant feature is that much of the violence is directed against the Pak army. It is no coincidence that October 30 marked the first anniversary of the lethal air strike on a madrassa of the militant group, Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM), in the Bajaur Agency ó an attack which at the time was believed to have been conducted by the US Air Force, but which the Musharraf regime insisted was conducted by the PAF. Since then there have been a number of audacious attacks specifically targeting the military. The Lal Masjid operation has only heightened the anti-Musharraf/anti- military sentiment in the more remote parts of Pakistan where the medieval Islamist-cum-Taliban fervour is at its peak.

The Swat district in the NWFP has been in the news over the last week for the violent battles between the military and local militants led by Maulana Fazlullah, with the latter seeming to have got the upper hand. The truce that had been declared was short-lived and the public execution of six military personnel by the militants has once again demonstrated the boldness with which a non-state entity is flexing its muscle against the Pakistani state. This is not an isolated incident. In early October, another Taliban commander, Baitullah Mehsud, captured over 280 military personnel, and executed three as revenge for Musharraf's anti-terrorism policies.

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