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Was Faisal Suffering From the Pashtun Malaise?

Much has been said and written about the botched Times Square bombing, but certain aspects remain unveiled. The suspect has just recently appeared in a court of law and he has yet to reveal, in his own words, his actual motives. While most people have focused on the growing Jihadi culture in Pakistan -- which is true to a great extent -- not many have focused on another possible motive.

The transformation of a handsome financial analyst into a novice bomber has baffled many minds. People are intrigued by Faisal Shahzad's failed attempt at bombing the most popular intersection in the United States. He does not look like a Jihadi, has a modern college-educated wife and himself has spent all his adult life in the United States. He did not even attend any mosque in Bridgeport and local Imam and worshipers have no idea whatsoever about him -- they did not even hear his name before this episode.

Yet, there is one missing clue that has been overlooked by both the investigators and the media. That clue is related to Pashtun nationalism. It has now been confirmed that Shahzad is a Pashtun, hailing from the Pabbi area of Nowshera but mostly brought up in Peshawar and Karachi. His father is a retired senior office of the Pakistan Air Force and has also served at a senior level in Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority.

Given his prosperous and powerful family credentials -- especially in a country like Pakistan where there is a steep divide between the rich and the poor -- one fails to understands his motives behind the bombing attempt. Except if one focuses on Pashtun sentiment that has started swarming the broader Pashtun society in Pakistan.

Perhaps the best example of this sentiment can be found in Shahzad's uncle, Kifayat Ali's statement. He told reporters that his nephew has been implicated in this conspiracy so the (Americans) can bomb more Pashtuns. He also said that Shahzad had never been involved with any Jihadi organizations.

Ali has aptly, though unknowingly, revealed the possible motive behind Shahzad's change of mind. Pashtuns have increasingly becoming apprehensive of the ongoing military campaign in northeastern Pakistan. Regular drone strikes in Pashtun hinterland are killing women and children, besides targeting some of the militants. Pashtuns are also at the receiving end in Afghanistan. Karzai government does not have significant representation of the Pashtuns and their share is minimal in government jobs and military despite their majority population.

If all pieces of the puzzle are put together then the picture will become clearer. Being an ethnic Pashtun, Shahzad became increasingly delusional and angry at the US campaign in Afghanistan and the drone attacks in Pakistan. His premonition grew to a degree where he decided to visit Pakistan and seek training from the Jihadi groups in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

He did not get the best training during his trip as is evident from the flawed bombing attempt. Nevertheless, he has completed his mission. He is cooperating with the investigators and has almost implicated himself. While he will spend the rest of his life in a high security prison, there will be many other disgruntled Pashtuns trying to attack the US. Shahzad's attempt has opened their minds and some of them may have already started contemplating about the next attack.

Pakistani Taliban have found their next target and will be actively recruiting disenfranchised Pashtun Americans. This creates a very precarious situation for not just Pakistan and the US but for the entire world. Future attacks can only be averted if Pashtuns are given jobs in Afghanistan and have a significant share in the government. Drone strikes in Pakistan could be carried out in such a way that there is minimal deaths of civilians, especially women and children.

I've come across many educated and liberal Pashtuns that have given way to conspiracy theories regarding the bombing plot. These were the people that used to back the war on terror but now their support is wavering and they think that the CIA framed Faisal to attack Pakistan. There needs to be a major overhaul of the US policy towards the Pashtuns. Otherwise, there are great chances of more attacks.