Militants armed with guns, grenades and suicide car bombs attacked the American consulate and a political rally in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province, killing nearly 50 people and wounding many more on Monday.
The attacks were launched within minutes and were the most serious this year in Pakistan. Monday’s events raise serious questions about America’s continuing military operations against Pashtun opposition in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Pakistan’s Taliban claimed responsibility for the consulate bombing in Peshawar, claiming it was in retaliation to America’s drone war. The Taliban threatened further attacks on US targets.
The White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the attack on the consulate was of “great concern” and that “we strongly condemn the violence.”
A spokesman for the Awami National Party said that members of his party had been celebrating plans to change the name of North-West Frontier Province, where Lower Dir is located, when a suspected suicide bomber detonated his explosives.
Al Jazeera’s Pakistan correspondent Kamal Hyder described the attack on the US consulate as well coordinated. It shook the entire city, yet did not cause the kind of mayhem seen in Dir. “That will be the only consolation for the security agencies,” Hyder said.
These events underscore the fact that, despite American drone attacks, the Taliban remain a serious force.
Al Jazeera correspondent suggested that although the militants have been driven out of their strongholds in key areas, a substantial number have infiltrated into the settled areas.
Meanwhile, a group of Afghan parliamentarians says that President Hamid Karzai, angry and frustrated at Washington and its allies criticizing and belittling his government, has threatened to step down and join the Taliban if foreign pressure on him continues.
The Afghan MPs said it was the second time in recent days that Karzai had threatened to quit and join the Taliban.
Karzai reportedly said that ‘if I come under foreign pressure, I might join the Taliban,’ Farooq Marenai, MP from Nangarhar province, said. Karzai repeated his threat at a closed-door meeting at a time when tension between him and the United States is increasing. Only a few days before, the Afghan president, installed by Washington after the Taliban’s overthrow in late 2001, had alleged that foreigners were behind the fraud in last year’s presidential election.
Karzai has bitterly complained that he and his government are not sovereign and exercise little control over military operations.
Defying pressure from Washington to boycott Iran, the Indian government has decided to appoint its Tehran ambassador Sanjay Singh to represent the country at a two-day conference on nuclear disarmament in the Iranian capital beginning on April 17. Delhi also insists it has not shut its door on the pipeline project running from Iran through Pakistan to India.
Sanjay Singh will attend the Tehran conference “Nuclear energy for All, Nuclear Weapons for None” – a sign of India’s annoyance over constant diplomatic pressure from Washington that goes back to the Bush administration. The Times of India newspaper quotes Indian government sources as saying that, as well as civilisational ties with Iran, Tehran is important for Delhi not just for energy but also for strategic reasons in Afghanistan.
The Tehran Times reports today the Indian envoy as saying that Iran can help India greatly in meeting its energy needs, including oil, gas and electricity.
India, Iran and Russia all cooperated in helping the Northern Alliance in the US-led campaign to remove the Taliban, before President Bush turned against Iran in his ‘axis of evil speech’ in January 2002.