Symbolically, the devastation last night of Islamabad’s Marriott Hotel by a massive truck bomb is one of the worst events to happen as the battle between the Islamic militants and the Pakistan establishment escalates. More than 50 people died and over 200 were hurt
For years the Marriott – earlier a Holiday Inn – has been a landmark providing some sort of normalcy in an increasingly dangerous country. With splendid views of the green Margalla Hills, it has for decades been a regular for foreign visitors, even though it has been hit by bombs twice in the past. Many foreign journalists have stayed – I was there with my family in the 1980s, as well as on many work assignments before and since. It seemed a fixture on the Islamabad landscape.
Reports suggest the bombers’ real target may have been the prime minister’s residence nearby, where President Asif Zardari was having dinner with ministers, but the truck driver saw massive security cordons and drove a few hundred yards to the Marriott instead. Others suggested it was because there were CIA officials staying in the hotel.
Earlier Zardari had made his first speech to the parliament, pledging to fight terror and not talk to those who perpetuated it. The bombing was a devastating answer to that.
Coming just a week of bombs hit three markets in Delhi, and following other attacks both in northern Pakistan and other Indian cities, this demonstrates how this region is being targeted by militants who originally fought their battles in the West.
India has a strong democracy and economy to help it weather such attacks. Pakistan does not – it has never had enough stability to develop either in its 61 years of independence. That is why the Marriott attack is significant.
A BBC report last night on the blast from Syed Shoaib Hasan in Islamabad had an emotional but graphic conclusion about the war between Pakistan’s militants and government:
“It is no more a stop-start battle of wavering ideals. It is now, without doubt, a battle to the death for the soul of Pakistan”.