After Marriott, get Bush off your back

By Shaheen Sehbai

KARACHI: After the symbolic but deadliest attack on a landmark target, a heartbeat away from all the main power centres in Islamabad, President Asif Ali Zardari will have a strong case to push US President George Bush off his back in Fata, stop sending his drones and keep the war on the other side of the Durand Line.

The Marriott disaster, a 9/11 of sorts for Pakistan, would be the best evidence of Pakistan’s sacrifice and contribution to the US war on terror, when Zardari meets Bush in New York, two days from today.

Whatever the benefit of this attack, in which scores and may be hundreds perished, including many scared foreigners who normally consider the Marriott to be the safest place outside the fortified Diplomatic Enclave in Islamabad, the security lapse is monumental and cannot be condoned.

The government claimed after the attack that it had information that an attack was being planned coinciding with President Zardari’s maiden address to parliament, and the president was saved.

But as soon as the address ended peacefully, the government security apparatus apparently disappeared, having saved the top leader, and provided the suicide bombers the opportunity to get the Marriott, a symbol of impregnable security. The building of the hotel was the target but some reports say it was a covert US military operation running out of Marriott which may have been the real provocation for the bombers. Whatever that operation was, has to be unearthed and revealed, if ever so done.

But what happened to the scores of vehicles and their drivers who are always parked on the road in front of the Marriott, waiting for the wealthy, powerful and elitist Sahibs and Begum Sahibs is a horror story which has to be told yet.

It is obvious that the entire power structure of Islamabad would have been literally shaken by the blast. President Zardari, if he was in his new house, would have received the biggest jolt and many glass windows and chandeliers would have dropped down in his presence.

It is already known that Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir, sitting in his secure AJK House, heard and felt the blast when windows and glass started falling, injuring his own guards. The Balochistan House was mostly destroyed. The judges colony and the Ministers’ Enclave would have shuddered. The PM House is not far either and many corporate headquarters, including the PTV building, the PTCL House, besides parliament and the presidency were just a few hundred yards away.

All of these must have got the message that the terrorists sent, responding to the chicanery of the US and the wobbly legged behaviour of all those sitting in these houses.

The message was clear: No number of Rehman Maliks can stop the carnage which is waiting for the political and elite classes, if they do not change their policies and they do not tell the Americans, in clear terms, what is acceptable and what is not.

President Zardari will be flying out of the country within hours and he will leave the country in the hands of nobody who will actually be in control. But when he arrives in New York, he can sit across the man in the White House and tell him to leave Pakistan alone if he wants to keep some semblance of peace and security. Otherwise, the next target will be the presidency, followed by the American Embassy or any Western target.

For Zardari to meet the US president for the first time on an equal level of protocol, if nothing else is equal, it would be a moment of truth. He can rise above everything else for his country and, like his selfless wife, who ignored her own safety for the nation, think about the future generations of Pakistan and talk straight with Bush.

If he does that, he would be an instant hero to all the angry and desperate Pakistanis who are out to kill everybody and commit suicide doing that.

The Americans cannot move an inch without Pakistan’s support and if Zardari cannot use this leverage in the interest of Pakistan, he would go down as a leader who had no guts and no courage. But Marriott can change his life, if he so desires.

Source: The News, 21/9/2008

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