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Tuesday, July 08, 2008


A day after a suicide bombing in the Pakistani capital city of Islamabad, a series of explosions hit Pashtun-dominated areas of the port city of Karachi on July 7. While the Islamabad bombing indicates the growing jihadist problem in Pakistan, the Karachi blasts appear to be about strengthening Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's hold on power.

A day after Pakistan's capital city Islamabad was rocked by a deadly suicide bombing, a series of small blasts struck the port city of Karachi on July 7. The attacks occurred within a span of one hour in Pashtun-dominated areas of north and central Karachi. The devices, which appear to have been crude, killed two people and injured around 50 others, prompting small-scale riots.

The Islamabad suicide bombing is yet another indicator of Pakistan's intensifying jihadist problem. By contrast, the Karachi attacks appear to be more about Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's political survival than anything else.

Musharraf is still in the political hot seat, with his political opponents regularly calling for his removal either through an honorable exit or through an impeachment trial. Nonetheless, the beleaguered president still has staying power mainly due to severe political infighting in the newly elected civilian government and his success in packing Pakistan's Supreme Court with allies to block any legal attempts to remove him from power.

To further secure his political position, Musharraf can rely on his friends in the Mutahiddah Qaumi Movement (MQM), a Muhajir political party that long has been the kingmaker of Pakistan's main port city and closely allied with Musharraf. The MQM has no shortage of political thugs to serve Musharraf's political agenda. The group dominates the organized crime sector in Karachi's ports and has been known to instigate ethnic riots and organize large pro-Musharraf demonstrations in the past.

The July 7 attacks targeted the poor segment of Karachi's Pashtun population -- a popular target for the MQM's attempts to stir up ethnic unrest in Karachi. By playing the MQM card, Musharraf can demonstrate to his political opponents in the government that he remains the king of Karachi through his ties with the MQM, and without him, the country's largest trading hub could fall into chaos.

The MQM, meanwhile, has its own reason to play along with Musharraf's political maneuvers. The Feb. 18 general elections gave Musharraf's opponents -- the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz -- an overwhelming victory, putting the Musharraf-allied MQM in the opposition. With Musharraf in power, the MQM retains political clout in the government. But if Musharraf gets the boot, MQM leaders would have to start from scratch in buying political influence among the government's leading parties. Through intimidation tactics in Karachi, the MQM can signal that it is still a political force to be reckoned with.

While this political wrangling is certainly not atypical for Pakistan, it comes at a most precarious time. Pakistan is already approaching a crisis point as the jihadist insurgency continues to spiral out of control. Stoking ethnic unrest in Karachi for political reasons exacerbates the security dilemma confronting the state and provides a greater opportunity for the jihadists to strike.

Courtesty Whiznews

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