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Wave of deadly attacks leaves Taliban looking stronger

As Pakistan's army steps up its offensive against the Taliban, a recent string of devastating attacks in Pakistani cities has led local newspapers to talk of a "black October" and has widened the gap between the country's government and its people.

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On Tuesday, October 20, seven students including young women were killed in a double suicide bombing at the Islamic University in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

When two hours after the blast Interior Minister Rehman Malik appeared on the scene, he was sent scurrying for shelter less than a minute later as furious students hurled stones at him.

The incident was indicative of a profound shift in public opinion in Pakistan, where more and more people hold the authorities responsible for the violence of the Taliban.

Yet, only a few weeks ago, the country had appeared united in support of the army's latest offensive against the Taliban. A daring assault on the military's headquarters on October 10 and a triple attack on police in Lahore had finally persuaded to government to launch a ground offensive against the main stronghold of the Taliban in the restive South Waziristan province.

But the operation has failed to halt the attacks, the Pakistan authorities proving unable to prevent the bombings in the country's major cities. Popular support is sinking fast as the ghosts of the past resurface: three times already, the armed forces have prematurely ended their offensives in South Waziristan.

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