Connect to share and comment
How a wounded cop and a blast at a mosque define the fateful struggle unfolding in Pakistan.
ISLAMABAD — The wounded cop lay in Surgical Ward Three with his head bandaged from the blast that embedded shrapnel in his skull, and he began to tell the story.
It’s a story about a relatively small bombing within the horrific spate of violence unfolding here, but one that serves as a kind of modern fable about the fateful struggle in which Pakistan now finds itself — and how it might just be turning a corner in that struggle.
Mohamed Tariq, 28, said he offered to give a lift home to his two close friends and fellow police officers but asked them to wait a few minutes while he attended evening prayers at the mosque adjacent to the Rescue 15 precinct house.
He took his place on a prayer mat alongside some 50 other men, mostly officers, gathered for the evening prayer. There was a loud explosion and a blast of hot air.
That’s all Tariq remembers. What he learned when he came to in the emergency room of Pakistan’s Institute of Medical Sciences was that his two good friends had stopped a suicide bomber from entering the gate of the police station, and blunted the impact of the first Taliban attack in the capital in many months.
The bomber still managed to pull the detonator cord on the explosives strapped to his body and kill the two police officers. Had the bomber made it just 10 steps further, he likely would have killed many, if not all, of the men at prayer.
Three others were wounded in the blast, but only the two officers, Tariq’s friends, “obtained martyrdom,” as the newscasters put it.
And so a suicide bomber claiming to be acting in the name of God tried to kill men of the law who were lining up for prayers until two heroic officers intervened and saved them all.
And there you have it. That is Pakistan today.
It is a country that is suddenly locked in a life-and-death struggle with a brand of Islamic militancy that is increasingly turning its rage inward on the country itself, even the prayerful.
It is a country that seems to be taking a stand — collectively and individually — against the Taliban and the militancy it breeds. People here from every level of society — policemen, politicians, journalists, religious leaders — all seem to have found a new consensus in the last two months to confront the militancy that is threatening their country.
Not all agree with the tactics of the military offensive underway in the Taliban stronghold of the Swat Valley. There, a massive conventional military operation is underway that has displaced more than two million Pakistanis in order to take the fight to an estimated 5,000 Taliban fighters. A human rights organization here claims 10,000 people have gone “missing” during the fighting. There are reports of some ending up in in a maze of underground prisons where torture is common and the rule of law is out the window.
In fact, there are still many here who disagree with the military’s tactics and its strategy. There is sustained outrage, for example, about the U.S. military’s drone missile attacks, which have indiscriminately killed civilians.