Pakistanis React to Times Square Terror Attempt

Soul-searching from Karachi to Islamabad

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The attempted bombing of Times Square has unleashed a torrent of commentary in the American media. While conservatives scramble to unpack the significance of Mirandizing suspect Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized Pakistani-born American citizen, security experts wonder about the frequency of low-level terror attempts. Everyone wants to know how Shahzad managed nearly to slip through authorities' hands. But what about opinion in Pakistan, where the U.S. has requested assistance tracking down Shahzad's suspected ties to radical groups?

Although some Pakistani officials and media figures remain skeptical of Faisal Shahzad's link to these radical organizations, the op-eds and letters available on English-language Pakistani news sites are largely sympathetic to the American situation. In fact, in the condemnations of the terror attempt lie more than a few reproaches: some Pakistanis evidently don't feel the country or Muslims in general are doing enough to combat extremism. That doesn't mean they aren't critical of the U.S. as well.

  • 'Why Do Educated Individuals Resort to Such Extremist Tendencies?' asks Sadia Hussain from Islamabad, writing in a letter to the Express Tribune (tied to the International Herald Tribune). Another letter-writer, Sheraz Khan, echoes that question. "This act has caused pain and suffering to not only his loved ones but to each and every Pakistani living abroad. What is worse is that some Muslims do not even believe all this and say that this is all part of a conspiracy to defame Muslims." Hussain declares "it is imperative that the state clamp down on all potential recruitment centres of terrorism."
  • Pakistani Soul-Searching "It is about time," writes A. Khan from Karachi, also to the Express Tribune, "that we faced the bitter reality and accepted that we are a breeding ground for terrorists who then go to other countries and carry out attacks. Our madressahs graduate thousands of 'students' every year and most of them have been indoctrinated to become suicide bombers or jihadis." Adds Mansoor Khalid: "America should try Faisal Shahzad under its law and give him exemplary punishment if he is found guilty of what the American authorities are accusing him of. At the same time, we need to ask ourselves that why are so many Pakistanis prone to the extremist bug and in the process bent on sullying our good name?"
  • U.S.-Pakistan Relations "There can be few of us who, when the news of the failed attempt to detonate a car bomb in New York Times Square broke, did not quietly wish that this was an act of domestic terrorism," reads an editorial in Pakistani publication The News. "The injustice [the White House] has exhibited has contributed to the emergence of militancy that threatens not only the US but everything that is good about us. But terrorism offers no answers." Condemning the bombing, the editors urge the Pakistani government to "afford the Americans every assistance" in investigating the incident, as "the American reaction ... at a formal level has been different to that in the past. This time we haven't received orders but a polite request." In order to build on "indications that Washington is willing to change its thinking and move towards a relationship that is less coercive and more cooperative," and not let the Times Square bomb attempt halt this shift, they suggest a speedy Pakistani response.
  • 'This Is a Reaction,' runs the quote from Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi through CBS News, which is making the rounds online. He says the attempted bombing is "blow back" from the U.S. drone strikes, "and you could expect that. Let's not be naive. They're not going to sort of sit and welcome you eliminate them. They're going to fight back."
  • But Shahzad Didn't Seem Radical Online Pakistan and South Asia news service Dawn runs a story on reaction in Faisal Shahzad's home village, where "shocked residents remember [him] as a modern father of two from a good family who showed no hatred of America or sympathy with radical Islam." The village "has no religious background and has returned candidates from secular parties, including the Pakistan People's Party of the first woman premier of a Muslim country, the late Benazir Bhutto."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.