Violence in Pakistan – looking at the past to understand the present

Suicide bombings have ravaged Pakistan over the past month. The Associated Press reports that there have been about eleven major attacks in the last month killing about 330 people.  The latest was an attack killing 35 workers waiting at a bank to get their monthly checks.  Additionally, global aid agencies have said that there are about 150,000 refugees from the region and estimate that this number could rise to 250,000 soon. The total number of refugees reached 1 million in May.

While the recent surge in violence is drawing more attention to terror networks in Pakistan, they are by no means a new phenomenon. The October 2008 edition of the World Savvy Monitor provides a useful analysis of the history and influence of the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Pakistan.

Still, this surge in violence and displacement is one reason that nearly all experts agree that the international community must widen its focus in Pakistan, from narrowly interpreted security interests to more general nation-building. To understand how international action might impact the situation in Pakistan, however, it is useful to first understand the motivations of the key external players in Pakistan.

Today President Barack Obama is scheduled to sign a defense bill that will pay Taliban members to renounce the insurgency and violence against the government in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and for instead protecting local towns.  Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin is also in favor of offering jobs and official pardon for past attacks in exchange for their cooperation. The incentive is meant to replicate a similar US strategy in Iraq, which resulted in 90,000 Iraqis who gave up the violent insurgency and began protecting their hometowns against violence.

How does this new strategy compare with past actions of the US in Pakistan? To better understand the history of US relations with Pakistan, check out the Pakistan edition of the World Savvy Monitor.

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