Daily Times is a leading newspaper of Pakistan. Its owner in the cabinet of President Musharraf. In its editorial it discussed terrorism in Pakistan. The Landhi "motorbike bomb" in Karachi, which killed 11 and wounded 50 on Monday, should force us to think more realistically - which means more objectively and less politically - about the acts of terrorism taking place in the country. Whenever a blast occurs, everyone rightly wants to know who has done it. But, given the psychology of those who take on the task of assigning blame, Pakistan now has a separate jurisprudence on the subject. Despite the fact that 80 percent of the cases over the past two decades have been cracked, the habit of "politicising" the incident with a view to gaining mileage has not left us.
The Lahore blast, which targeted the police on January 10, was blamed on America by most TV channel discussions immediately after the event. Also, like the Rawalpindi assassination of Ms Bhutto on December 27, blame was also heaped on the Musharraf establishment. Some old voices were raised too about India - without naming it under some incomprehensible rule of the game - on the grounds that "it has always wished to destabilise Pakistan". But the Karachi blast leaves most of analysts guessing, although when officials say that a "foreign hand" can't be ruled out they wish to lean once again on the Indian bogey. The "American factor" is also present in the guessing game.
There are several candidates. As far as the Karachi blast is concerned, the jihadi organisations bred by the state in the past could have fired the first shot in the sectarian war that normally begins in the month of Muharram. But the weak point in this theory is that the Shias were not targeted in this killing of the common man with no labelling of any sort. Then the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) is known to have done this kind general "signalling" - as in the case of the PIDC building blast. But it usually notifies its deeds and links them to its cause - the PIDC building houses a gas and petroleum company based in Balochistan - which it hasn't in this case. Then there is the "Musharraf establishment". But it can no longer be cited in this case because there was no one in Quaidabad, Landhi, that President Musharraf or his "rogue" officers allegedly needed to kill.
The last party we think of after such acts of terrorism is Al Qaeda. If Al Qaeda did it, it didn't use a suicide-bomber but an improvised time-device called IED which it uses liberally in Iraq in addition to suicide-bombing. But it normally doesn't target the general public and, when it does, the act usually carries a message for the real target. But there may be one factor that might be relevant. Is Al Qaeda under pressure? Of course, it is. It has suffered a reversal in Swat and is facing tough responding fire in the Tribal Areas. When it attacked Pakistani troops in Mohmand Agency on Monday, the army responded by killing 23 of its terrorists. The ANP office in the NWFP was blasted but it wasn't a suicide-bombing. Yet the jury must remain out on who has done the deed, despite the fact that the Rawalpindi assassination now looks more and more like an Al Qaeda hit; and so does the blast in Lahore, the aim behind the campaign being to destabilise the country, get the elections postponed and create a political crisis.
The politics of the day is that "Musharraf must go"; therefore, the easy politicisation of terrorism is to somehow relate it to him. He took us into a war "that was not ours", it is said, and we are now reaping the consequences of that "national betrayal". It is the slavery of the United States, the argument continues, that has forced Al Qaeda to act the way it does, if it does, and Musharraf's exit from the scene will return things to normal, including the roll-back of our slavery to America. An example of this can be given from the speech of the PMLN chief Nawaz Sharif on Monday in Bhara Kahu near Islamabad where he sought to bring out the contrast between himself, "who defied America in 1998", and Musharraf, "who sold the honour of the nation to America in 2001" after toppling him.
This "denial" and politicisation of the truth hurts Pakistan. What if we were to be confronted with a report by Scotland Yard that claims Ms Bhutto was assassinated by the Al Qaeda network and that the "Baitullah phone intercept" was real rather than bogus? In fact this is what the preliminary reaction from the team is, according to reports. Does that mean Scotland Yard is also lying or in the pay of the Musharraf regime? Of course, an elected government will one day decide what to do, but getting the facts wrong today will not help us tomorrow when the big decisions will need to be taken.