Clearly, the recent surge of attacks across Pakistan (primarily targeting security forces and civilians in the major urban centers of Islamabad, Peshawar, Rawalpindi, and Lahore) is quickly turning public opinion against the Pakistani Taliban. Hundreds more died today in several attacks and it feels like momentum for more attacks continues to build. As I ran through the dark streets of DC (thanks to Daylight Savings Time), I tried to understand how the Pakistani populace must feel. Ultimately, I think a "siege" mentality must be setting in or at least beginning to form. Remember that most of these areas are not used to any violence beyond the normal crime of a major city. Now, seemingly everywhere they turn, suicide bombers are blowing themselves up. So, who is winning and who is losing in the eyes of the populace:
Pakistani Government: The current government, headed by Ali Zardari -widower of Benazhir Bhutto - is quickly losing face as its unable to provide security. According to many reports, the local populace places most of the blame on the government's inability to stop the Taliban.
Taliban (Pakistan Wing): The dramatic surge in attacks since the beginning of October has likely alienated all but the most radical supporters of the Taliban. Most of the locals view them increasingly as puppets of AQ proper (bin Laden and cronies). So far, they are the biggest losers. What I still can't quite understand is whether their continued appetite for violence is really a tragic flaw (that will eventually end them) or whether they have some grand plan that has yet to play out? I'm not sure what the calculus of the new leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, is yet...or if there is any?
Pakistani Army: With the Army making a huge PR show of its ongoing operations in Waziristan, the local populace continues to most strongly support the Army (as it has for many years in this country - thus their propensity for coups). As the government continues to lose support, we must ask who will gain it? The logical answer is the Army, led by Gen. Ashfaq Kayani. Quickly becoming a rising star, and reportedly an increasingly outspoken critic of Pres. Zardari, Kayani is a major player.
So, the logical question (at least for us conspiracy theorists out there) is: When a new trend starts occurring, we must consider who stands to benefit most from it. In this case, it seems plausible (although not certain) that the Pakistani Army is gaining significant support from these attacks - especially when combined with the perception amongst the populace that they're the only ones trying to do something to stop the attacks (the Waziristan operation). I hate to ask this: but is it possible that some elements within the Pakistani Army (or its ruthless intelligence wing, the ISI) could be responsible for the surge in attacks? I wouldn't necessarily put it past them...