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The Americans are coming

The news came just hours after the US secretary of state touched Pakistani soil.

Last modified: 29 Oct 2009 00:48
Photo by AFP

The news came just hours after the US secretary of state touched Pakistani soil.

A massive bomb blast in the north western city of Peshawar, in a central market place. I have visited that marketplace on many occasions.  It's a rabbit warren of tiny streets, shops stacked up on each other, traders touting their wares, each one with a better price than the others.

The blast took place just after 1pm. It was shocking. The TV news footage showed a narrow street aflame, smoke billowing up into the air. It reminded me of the Marriot hotel blast in Islamabad in 2008. That time, a truck carrying 1000kg's worth of explosive had gone off, but what caused the real damage was fire accelerant, which torched the five star hotel. Fire accelerant does that, although Pakistani police have not officially confirmed it yet.

So far, over 91 people are dead and over 100 wounded in today's attack. That figure is likely to rise as they pull people from the rubble.  It's one of the deadliest attacks in the country's history. 

As I said, it came as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton started her first official visit  in Pakistan. This visit is seen as crucial for US-Pakistani relations. At the news conference though, she was friendly and used worlds like "partners", "working together".

It seems the US now understands that its relations with Pakistan are not always seen in a positive light. For a long time, many here felt that Pakistan was bullied by the US, that the US took, and took, and took from Pakistan without ever realising what Pakistan really needed.

Has that seemingly combative relationship now turned a corner? Clinton is hoping so. Speaking in Islamabad today, she confidently announced a programme to improve Pakistan's energy infrastructure.

It's a smart move on behalf of the US. Beyond the Taliban and security, energy - and the lack thereof - is the biggest concern for Pakistanis. If Clinton can crack that particular nut, then maybe, just maybe she can help turn the tide of anti-US sentiment in Pakistan. But as the suspected US drone strikes still occur, as Pakistan still battles with the Taliban and that US led war in Afghanistan goes on, turning the tide of opinion - as the old cliché goes - will be difficult.