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More Violence in Peshawar Complicates Imran Khan's Prospects


A devastating attack on a historic marketplace in Peshawar caps a particularly deadly week for Pakistan, even by its own standards. After a double suicide bombing at a Christian church killed 83 people last Sunday, a bus bombing killed 21 government officials on Friday, and yesterday at least 40 people were killed as a bomb ripped through Peshawar’s Qissah Khawan, or Storytellers’ market.

Following these attacks, civilian politicians’ overtures toward the Taliban continue to look ever more futile. Imran Khan, whose party runs the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province where all the attacks took place, is in a particularly difficult situation. Shortly after the church bombing, he suggested that the Pakistani Taliban should open an office in Peshawar similar to the Afghan Taliban office in Doha.

Interestingly, however, the Pakistani Taliban has been careful to distance itself from each of the three attacks this past week, attributing them to smaller fringe outfits. The New York Times reports:

“We have nothing to do with today’s bomb blast,” said Shahidullah Shahid, a Taliban spokesman. “We have made it clear several times that it is not our policy to target the general public. We condemn it and ask the government to ascertain its perpetrators.”

This may indicate that there are some within the Pakistani Taliban’s umbrella organization who actually favor talks. If so, it raises the question of to whom, exactly, the government would be speaking if its talks with the Taliban proceed.

On the surface, it looks to be more of the same as far as Pakistan’s overall stability goes. No breakthrough appears imminent, and this kind of civilian bloodletting could very well continue on into the foreseeable future. But the story to pay attention to underneath all this concerns Imran Khan’s political fortunes. He has built up his reputation supporting the Taliban and speaking out against the United States. Though US drone strikes remain broadly unpopular among Pakistan’s voters, being seen as an apologist for this kind of wanton brutality may not be very good for his future prospects on the national stage.

[Pakistani relatives and residents carry the coffins of bomb victims during a funeral procession in Shabqader on September 29, 2013. Photo courtesy of Getty Images]

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  • USNK2

    Not that this is any excuse for the recent bombings, but, it appears that Peshawar may hold the record for ‘most invaded/conquered city’ in history.
    The Taliban is not a monolithic organization on either side of the Afghan-Pakistan border.
    I assume that most of the three+ million Afghan refugees still living on the Pakistan side of the border are in the Peshawar Valley, so who knows how many factions there are…
    What I fail to understand is why ViaMeadia thinks, relative to this tragic spate of bombings in Peshawar, that the main issue is Imran Khan’s political future. Because he thinks the Mehsud Taliban of Waziristan have legitimacy???
    All I do is read Pashtun history, and even I know the Mehsud Pashtuns of Waziristan have enormous legitimacy, as do the Ghilzai Pashtuns, e.g., Mullah Omar, of Afghanistan.
    They know their history even if the New York Times does not.

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