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War and Fallout: What is Behind the Pakistan Violence?

In the latest Global Pulse episode, Pakistan at War, host Erin Coker asks who is to blame for the violence in Pakistan. Watch the episode and share your thoughts below!

Wednesday's market bombing in Peshawar capped off a particularly deadly month in Pakistan amidst a shored up military campaign in the country's western region of Waziristan.  More than 100 people died in Wednesday's attack, many of them women and children.

Global media largely attribute the recent bloodshed to the Pakistani Taliban's attempt to destabilize the government in retaliation for recent military efforts to drive extremists from the country's volatile North-West Frontier Province.

However, militant violence in Pakistan has been on the rise long before the government launched its new offensive. According to the terrorism database, South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), terrorist violence killed 2,155 civilians in 2008, compared to 140 in 2003. Similarly, nearly 1800 civilians have been killed in the first 10 months of 2009, exceeding the total number of civilian deaths from 2003 to 2006, according to the SATP.

Some international and media experts note that the Pakistani Taliban has absorbed Punjabi militants and other separatist groups, resulting in a new and dangerous band of extremists. These militants are further bolstered by al-Qaeda members who have taken refuge in the country's tribal areas near the Afghan border. This new incarnation of militants, notes the Council on Foreign Relations' Jayshree Bajoria, is "more violent and less conducive to political solutions than their predecessors."

In a Foreign Policy editorial, the Washington, DC-based Atlantic Council attributes Pakistan's inability to contain the growing extremist threat to a lack of modern military might and calls on the U.S. to furnish Pakistan with adequate weaponry to defeat the Taliban. Failure to do so, argues Shuja Nawaz, will result in continued terror strikes on the public. 

However, Pakistani blogger Riaz Haq blames the violence not on a lack of American weapons, but on government intelligence failures. "The best way to stop the increasing carnage on the streets of to stop the attacks well before they occur," writes Haq. "Unfortunately, however, the intelligence agencies which are supposed to frustrate the blood-thirsty attackers appear totally ineffective, even paralyzed."
While the exact cause of the surge in violence may be up for debate, the toll it is taking on Pakistani civilians is undeniable.

The renewed clashes between government forces and the Taliban in North-West Frontier Province have resulted in a second wave of refugees fleeing the fighting, adding strain to already-crowded camps. According to the U.N., fighting in South Waziristan has forced an estimated 139,400 people from their homes [PDF link] and could displace thousands more.

The latest bombing in Peshawar has also disrupted the lives of Pakistan's urban residents. "The people want to go back to their mundane routines," writes Murtava Razvi in a Dawn editorial. "Youngsters want to go out to the parks, to the beach, to bowl, to eat out. Women want to go shopping unescorted, and men want to go about their daily chores without worrying about families left at home. This isn’t happening anymore."


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War and Fallout: What is Behind the Pakistan Violence?