It was a normal day at office. We all had just started piecing together the day’s assignments while discussing what would be the lead today or what was the top story of the day. Undecided as we were, we kept doing our normal work i.e. taking news headlines, preparing newsletter and sending the billboard for the day. It was just then a colleague screamed “Hey guys, look what has happened. We have got our lead” And all eyes automatically turned up to the plasma screens placed on the side walls of our office flashing “Sri Lankan players attacked in Lahore”. “Unknown assailants attack the bus carrying SL cricketers in Lahore” “7 policemen killed in the ambush near Gaddaffi stadium in Lahore” and so on.
What happened after that need not be told or discussed because March 3 became the blackest day in the history of cricket. The incident for sure fulfilled our appetite for a lead story as newsmen but the impelling impact of the incident, as the details started pouring in, stunned all of us, to be more precise the whole world.
The unidentified assailants, who targeted the convoy of the Sri Lankan cricketers, have succeeded in spreading their message of immense hatred to the international community and all those who want peace and prosperity in the Indian subcontinent. The masterminds of this dastardly attack also sent a clear message to the world, that in Pakistan it is they who decide what to do and what not to do, come what may. Their aim was to complicate things for the democratically elected government in Pakistan, which is already under scanner for its double standards on terrorism.
The shocking incident, which was strongly condemned by one and all, also reflects the deteriorating law and order situation and helplessness of the present government of Pakistan. It is perhaps for the first time that a group of players have been targeted by well trained militants carrying sophisticated weapons like rocket launchers and assault rifles.
Those who prepared the blueprints of the attack knew that cricket is akin to a religion in the Islamic State and elsewhere in the Indian subcontinent, so their message and the impact of their action will be loud and clear. The same happened too. The cowardly attack sent every one in a state of frenzy, shivered the political establishments across the world, stunned sports lovers and kickstarted a debate as to when this religious fanaticism will end.
The striking resemblance between the modus operandi of the Lahore and Mumbai terror attacks clearly shows that the terrorist outfits operating in Pakistan will not buckle under any international pressure and will strike at their will, come what may.
India and Pakistan are already at the war front owing to the tense situation that resulted due to the worst terrorist attacks in Mumbai last year. One could easily imagine what would have happened if Indian cricketers were targeted in place of Sri Lankan players.
A possibility of war cannot be ruled out considering the explosive situation and rising anger among Indians had it actually happened.
The President of Sri Lanka, Mr Mahinda Rajapakse, ignored every advice against sending his team to Pakistan overlooking the highly volatile situation and lack of security there, just for the sake of solidarity among neighbouring states. He probably thought the sport and cricketers, who act as goodwill ambassadors, will further bring the two nations closer. However, he was wrong as the terrorists knew no discriminations and terrorism knows no boundaries. President Rajapakse had to repent his decision and immediately called his players back home.
According to some political analysts, the attack on Sri Lankan players is actually revenge to the massive Army crack down against the LTTE rebels in the Island Nation. It is no longer a secret that LTTE has a close association with several militant outfits operating in Pakistan, which help each other by supplying arms and ammunitions and logistics in a clandestine manner so that the each could carry out their jihad.
The attack also reflects a shift in the modus operandi of militants, who are now targeting sportspersons for spreading their message of terror. They know that by targeting high profile players, killing civilians or by abducting diplomats they will come closer to achieving their dream of establishing the Rule of terror.
Now, a question which has cropped up in every one’s mind is that could it be a start of the socio-economic & political isolation of Pakistan? The Islamic State of Pakistan has repeatedly failed to contain terrorism or fulfil its commitment on curbing militancy and it now must pay the price for its mistakes. Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari can not be pardoned for his “mere apologies”, which he tendered to the Sri Lankan government and the international community for not providing adequate security to the players, while owing responsibility for incident.
The incident is for sure, going to have serious long time geo-political consequences and it now depends on how the diplomatic channels, especially in India and the cricket playing nations, handle the arising situation.
The immediate effect is visible as New Zealand has scrapped its Pakistan tour. The various bodies/ organisations governing cricket in their respective countries have opposed the World Cup matches scheduled in Pakistan. Several countries like England, South Africa and Australia have long expressed their unwillingness to play cricket in Pakistan owing to uncontrolled militancy.
The incident has also raised alarm in the US where the Obama administration has at one time asked Pakistan to dismantle terror infrastructure and at the other mulling to raise the military aid to Islamabad.
A bill proposed by Senator Senators John Kerry and Richard Lugar aims at tripling military aid to Pakistan to the tune of USD1.5 billion. This is happening at a time when reports claim that more than USD 3.8 billion of USD 5 billion of American assistance to Pakistan has probably been diverted by the latter to fund terrorism.
It would be a befitting reply to those who planned the attack if the International Cricket Council decides not to organise any tournaments in Pakistan in the months to come. Depriving Pakistanis of what they love most would be perhaps the best lesson that can be taught to them. Enough is enough. Either Pakistan acts or gets ready to face the consequences.
There is an urgent need to understand that these terror tactics are aimed at distorting our faith in democratic institutions and ruining our bilateral ties. Terrorism poses a grave threat to the entire world and there is an urgent need to tackle it seriously.
Come, let us resolve that we will not be deterred by these terror tactics and will never allow terrorists to succeed in the nefarious designs. Let us make sure that sports continue to unite millions and millions of hearts, sans geographical boundaries and promote peace, harmony & tranquillity.