Defeated at polls, Pakistan’s Islamists strike back with bombs

The third suicide attack in Pakistan’s northwest in as many days left up to 40 dead and 30 wounded near Darra Adam Khel, North West Frontier Province, March 2. The bomber struck a grand jirga of five tribes in Zarghon village, called to discuss the increasing pro-Taliban activities in the region. Another suicide attack on a vehicle carrying police in the Bajaur agency, Federally Administered Tribal Areas, killed 20 on March 1. On Feb. 29, a suicide attack on a funeral procession for police killed earlier that day in the Swat Valley, NWFP, left 50 dead.

The bombing wave comes amid local factionalism in the secular forces that emerged victorious n the Feb. 18 elections. The secular Pashtun nationalist Awami National Party (ANP), which won the largest number of provincial assembly seats, is poised to form the next government in the NWFP with help from the Pakistan People’s Party. But last week, the ANP named Amir Haidar Khan Hoti, a great grandson of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, for the post of chief minister of the province. The nomination saw angry scenes outside the Bachcha Khan Markaz, the ANP headquarters in Peshawar, with protests by supporters of Bashir Ahmed Bilour, a senior contender of the post.

Last month, the military launched a massive operation to dislodge pro-Taliban militants who had taken control of the Kohat Tunnel on the Peshawar-Karachi road. The military said it killed 70 militants and that the rest had fled the area. (The Hindu, India, March 3; AlJazeera, March 1)

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