Next: nuclear Taliban?

What great timing. On Aug. 16, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta spoke to reporters at the Pentagon about a new report from the Congressional Research Service entitled “Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons: Proliferation and Security Issues” (online as a PDF at the Federation of American Scientists). Panetta said: “The great danger we’ve always feared is that if terrorism is not controlled in their country then those nuclear weapons could fall into the wrong hands.” That same day, militants from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan attacked Minhas Air Force Base near Kamra, outside Islamabad—a site where aviation research takes place, and is believed to be closely linked to Pakistan’s nuclear program. Nine attackers and one guard were killed, a senior officer injured, and a surveillance plane damaged. It was the fourth and most audacious attack on the base. Pakistan Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan claimed responsibility, saying it was revenge for the death of leader Baitullah Mehsud in a US drone strike in 2009, and the commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden last year.

Not surprisingly, news media in India played the Congressional report a little differently—not waiting for the Kamra attack to cover it (US media barely noted it had been released for several weeks already), and showing less concern about the nukes falling into “wrong hands” (as if the Pakistani state constitutes the “right hands”). The Press Trust of India highlighted such quotes from the report as: “Pakistan appears to be increasing its fissile production capability and improving its delivery vehicles in order to hedge against possible increases in India’s nuclear arsenal. Islamabad may also accelerate its current nuclear weapons efforts [and] could increase the number of circumstances under which it would be willing to use nuclear weapons.” (Pakistan TribuneAAP, Aug. 17; Zee News, Aug. 15; PTI, Aug. 9)

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s ongoing sectarian war fails to win much coverage outside Pakistan. On the same day as the Kamra attack, 20 Shi’ites were dragged off a bus and killed in Mansehra, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The next day, a bomb attack targeted a bus carrying Shi’ite students in Karachi on Friday, killing one. (AP, Aug. 17; AFP, Aug. 16)

  1. Shi’ites attacked in Pakistan —again
    The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for twin bomb attacks targeting Shi’ites in Karachi and Rawalpindi, which killed 25 people. Most were killed when a suicide bomber struck a night-time Shi’ite procession in Rawalpindi. Two more were killed in  Karachi when a bomb-rigged motorcycle collided with a rickshaw near a Shiite mosque (AFP, Nov. 22)

  2. Shi’ites attacked in Pakistan —again
    At least 19 Shiite pilgrims, including four women, were killed Dec. 30 when their convoy of three buses in southwestern Pakistan was struck by a remotely detonated bomb, officials said. At least 25 other people were wounded in the attack in the Mastung district of Baluchistan province. (NYT, Dec. 30)

    Government officials say 21 out of 23 tribal militiamen (“Levies”) abducted days earlier from a checkpoint near Peshawar by the Taliban were executed by their captors, Dec. 30, their bullet-ridden bodies found at Jabai. (PTI, Global Dispatch, Dec. 30; Dawn, Dec. 28)

  3. Shi’ites attacked in Pakistan —again
    Three days of mourning have been announced in Balochistan after a series of blasts in the provincial capital Quetta. Most of the casualties were from twin blasts at a snooker hall which killed 81 people and injured more than 120 in a predominantly Shi’ite area. Among the dead was Quetta-based rights activist, Irfan Ali, reportedly helping those wounded in the first blast. Earlier, a bomb in a market area killed 11 people and injured 27 more. The United Baloch Arm, said it had carried out the market bombing; Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed credit for the other two. (BBC News, Jan. 11)