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‘American Style’ War on Taliban to Blame for Pakistan Blast

New America Media, Q&A, Viji Sundaram Posted: Jun 11, 2009

Editor’s Note: On Tuesday a car bomb exploded in the Pearl Continental Hotel, a luxury hotel in Peshawar, Pakistan, near the Afghan border, killing as many as 18 people. In a conversation with NAM editor Viji Sundaram, veteran Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir said there was more to the blast than the U.S. State Department’s plan to buy the hotel to house aid workers and diplomats. Mir, 42, is best known as the only journalist to have interviewed Osama bin Laden, twice before the 9/11 attacks and once after.

Could the fact that U.S. officials were negotiating to buy that property and convert it into an embassy have anything to do with the blast?

Not at all. The U.S. already has a consulate in a safe area of Peshawar, which is heavily guarded. This five star hotel was targeted because many westerners were staying here.

Do you see the Taliban's hand in this latest blast?

The Taliban attacked the ISI (Pakistan’s intelligence service) office in Lahore in the same style a few days back. I think Taliban are involved in this attack.

This is the fourth blast since last week. What do you think motivates the attackers?

The Taliban lost the battle in the Swat Valley. They were forced to retreat from all the main cities of Malakand area. They are now taking revenge for their humiliating defeat. A few weeks back, they were threatening to take over Islamabad but now they are confined to the mountain caves. They have been defeated for the time being but their main leadership is still at large and alive and they can organize more suicide attacks.

Do you think President Zardari is not being very effective in putting down the Taliban?

The Zardari regime started a big military operation against the Taliban without any planning and preparation. There was no other option than to launch operations but the timing was bad for a good thing. The operation was started when Zardari reached the U.S. for a meeting with Obama. Secondly, there was no planning for taking care of displaced people. Thirdly, collateral damage was massive. There was no good intelligence about the location of Taliban leaders and they are still alive. Anyhow, most of the Pakistanis supported the army operation. They commended the sacrifices of the army and police against the Taliban but they are still waiting for the good news. And good news will come when top leaders of Taliban are killed.

Was security adequate at the gates of the Pearl Continental Hotel in Peshawar?

Security was good at the Pearl Continental gate but nobody can stop three or four suicide bombers at one time. They first killed the guards and then stormed inside.

What is the mood of the Pakistani people? Is anti-American sentiment still high?

Pakistanis want a made-in-Pakistan solution for their problems. They don’t like Richard Holbrooke (U.S. Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan) coming to Pakistan again and again and trying to damage the credibility of Pakistani leaders by claiming that they didn’t raise the issue of drone attacks with him, which was not true. Many Pakistanis think that Holbrooke is behaving like a viceroy. Pakistanis are united against the Taliban but their leaders are not leading them. They are just taking dictation from the U.S., which is not in the interest of the U.S. or Pakistan. Anti-American sentiments are still high here because of the drone attacks and arrogance of Holbrooke. Obama delivered an excellent speech in the Middle East, but Holbrooke sabotaged the positive impact of his speech by talking rubbish in Pakistan.

Are the Pakistanis blaming the Americans for this latest blast?

Pakistanis are not blaming Americans but they think that they cannot win this battle in an American style. They want well-organized ground operations against the Taliban but our forces are trying to kill them in an American style by aerial bombing and by using tanks. This style is lethal for innocent civilians. Pakistanis want America to stop drone attacks. They think all their problems were created by Bush and Musharraf. Obama is not helping Pakistan, but following in the footsteps of Bush by the drone attacks.

Does the fact that the attack has moved away from the Swat Valley and gone more inland signal that no place in Pakistan is safe anymore?

A few weeks back, the American media was saying the Taliban would take over Islamabad soon. Now we have pushed the Taliban back to the mountains and they are targeting big cities, but you people are saying no place is safe in Pakistan. Pakistanis want to defeat the Taliban and finish them forever but the Taliban are gaining strength due to people like Holbrooke and David Kilcullen (advisor to Gen. David Petraeus) who claimed in March that Pakistan may collapse in six months. These six months will be completed in September this year and we will organize special shows and events just to prove that both Kilcullen and the Taliban are wrong. Pakistan will defeat both of them.


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