Today’s bombing in Lahore – the third major terrorist attack in Pakistan’s cultural capital this year – is likely retaliation for the Pakistan military’s recent operations in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). On April 24th, the military started operations to roll back the Taliban in the Buner, Dir and Swat Valley districts of the NWFP.
The latest incident demonstrates the militants are capable of attacking anywhere in the country. The militants are seeking to intimidate the Pakistani people and weaken Pakistani resolve in the fight against terrorism. In the past, such attacks have swayed public opinion in favor of peace talks instead of military operations.
However, this time we are likely to see a different reaction. The Pakistani public now seems to understand the ultimate objective of the Taliban is to undermine Pakistan’s democratic institutions nationwide. They also see that the Taliban militants have no intention to lay down their arms since they refused to do so even after President Zardari agreed to their demands in the Swat Valley in early April. One week after the government conceded in Swat, the Taliban moved in to the neighboring Dir district.
Pakistan has turned a corner in the fight against the Taliban in the last few weeks. The public and civilian leadership has finally galvanized behind the military to confront the Taliban militarily, rather than pursue peace deals. Any sign of retreat by the Pakistan military at this time would confuse the Pakistani public and revive international concern about stability in Pakistan.