Pakistan on the front lines

Every time I hear American politicians verbally attack Pakistan from the safety of their offices on Capitol Hill, I think they should remember the victims of this vicious act of carnage inflicted on the city of Lahore, in Eastern Pakistan.

Lahore carnage

Rescuers comb through debris after the Lahore attack (AFP photo)

 This is what’s left of a street corner in downtown Lahore, a major city just across Pakistan’s border with India, after suicide bombers detonated a massive car bomb outside of a police headquarters and an ISI office (ISI is Pakistan’s version of the CIA–Inter-Service Intelligence Agency). Up to 30 people were killed in this attack and nearly 300 were injured. All of this happened as Pakistan’s Army is engaged in a full-scale military operation against Taliban fighters in the scenic Swat Valley, which was once a major tourist attraction before the Taliban brought their way of life and all its terror into it.

I think its crazy to accuse Pakistan of not doing enough in the war on terror. The Pakistani people are on the front lines of the war on terror, whether our politicians want to acknowledge this or not. In order to keep America safe since 9/11, the people of Pakistan have paid a very steep toll–unfortunately, the Lahore attack is just one example of a long line of violent acts committed against the Pakistani state. Already this year, Lahore has seen a siege of a police station and an attack on a visiting Sri Lankan Cricket Team. The team suffered injuries, but all of the players survived thanks to the work of the policemen protecting them. Six officers were not so lucky, however. Bombings and other terrorist activities continue to rock cities across the country, including the capital, Islamabad.

Pakistani soldiers and police are laying down their lives so that Americans can debate whether or not terrorism is a legitimate concern almost 8 years after 9/11. Yet, it seems that all our leaders will do is harass the Pakistani government and go so far as to accuse Pakistan of sympathizing with the Taliban, a laughable accusation that has nonetheless outraged some Pakistanis. The President of Pakistani, Asif Ali Zardari, lost his wife, Benazir Bhutto, in a bombing back in 2007, and former President Musharraf survived multiple assassination attempts that involved shootings, IED’s, and suicide bombers. Last year, Condoleezza Rice ruled out US sanctuary for Musharraf after he was threatened with impeachment. Rice claimed that former President Musharraf’s declaration of a state of emergency was out of line with democracy, but maybe she should be asking what an American President would do if bombings were rocking cities all across the United States on a weekly basis. Would she honestly say that America would not be in a state of emergency then?

As an American, I am grateful for everything that Pakistan has done. In the months after 9/11, almost everyone I talked to felt that another attack on US soil was imminent–people were buying duct tape to seal their doors out of fear that Al-Qaeda would launch a chemical attack and some Americans felt the need to purchase their own firearms. Others felt that the suicide bombings that had been seen in Israeli cafes and buses would be arriving in US in just a matter of time. In the 7 and a half years since our nation’s worst terror attack, none of that has happened. Americans have remained safe and have been able to go about their lives, largely without having to worry about being blown up. This is not because terrorism is not a legitimate threat, but because all of those fears–the suicide bombers, the chemical attacks, the shootouts–they have all been happening in places like Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq. In the last 6 years, hundreds of terrorists have blown themselves up in cities all across these three countries, taking a toll that is difficult for Westerners to contemplate.

Pakistan has made mistakes just as much as the US has, but Americans should take it easy on the Pakistani Army, police, and government because there are plenty of reasons for them to want to hesitate, especially because it is their cities and people who pay the price when the Taliban and Al-Qaeda retaliate while Americans are on the other side of the world sleeping in peace.

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