Our guest blogger is Dr. Awab Alvi, a Pakistani dentist in Karachi and author of the blog Teeth Maestro.
The recent series of terrorist attacks in Lahore have left an entire nation of Pakistan in a state of stunned silence. Not only was it a ruthless gun battle in broad daylight on one of the busiest intersections of Lahore, but it was also an attack on a harmless sporting event. These tragic events could potentially end the future of Pakistan being the center of any International sporting event for at least a few years if not more.
On the morning of March 3rd the convoy of the Sri Lankan team rounded the Liberty Circle barely two blocks away from the cricket stadium, 12 gunmen strategically placed around the roundabout opened fire. The escorting convoy retaliated but was easily out numbered both in personnel as well as ammunition. It is reported that there were only a handful of police mobile escort vehicles accompanied the Sri Lankan entourage, the handful of commandos tried hard to defend the sudden assault which left a trail of six policemen dead and a few injured but none of the attackers sustained any injuries. The most heroic maneuver which probably saved the entire Sri Lankan team was the sheer determination of the police officer who got into the bus after the bus driver was shot dead and he in turn accelerated the bus into the stadium, had if the players been stranded in the midst of the crossfire for 25 odd minutes the world would stand mourning an entirely different saga.
Over the couple of days much has been reported about the event, the finger pointing session has already begun, some blaming the Indian intelligence agency RAW to have orchestrated this attack in response to the Mumbai attack. Some may point fingers to LeT [Lashkar-e-Taiba] or even the ever worsening Taliban situation in the northern areas of Pakistan, while some international media outlets chose to brand this upheaval as an Al-Qaeda trademark.
Regardless who might be to blame, one thing that must be clearly understood, that it remains a massive security lapse on behalf of the Punjab police to create an opening for the 12 gunmen to exploit the situation. The threat upon the visiting team was evident to the Pakistani government as far back as a secret memo dated 22nd January which revealed that the Indian intelligence agency [RAW] was planning to target the Sri Lankan team in Lahore while they were being transported from the hotel to the stadium, and this was precisely what happened.
The leaked document which emerged late the same night of the attack exposed the probability that the police might have not taken this warning seriously, and took the security of the visitors lightly. Simon Taufel, an umpire riding along with the Sri Lankan team said:
We were promised a nine (out of ten security) and got delivered a two, You tell me why supposedly 20 armed commandos were in our convoy and when the team bus got going again, we were left on our own?
Quite simply this security lapse can be attributed due to negligence on the part of the police officials. Possibly perpetuated due to the recent political upheaval where the Chief Minister, the administrative head of the province, was dismissed from office replaced by the Governor, the lack of a proper administrative hand over may have potentially lead to the upheaval.
Whosoever might be to blame may seem inconsequential as the damage has been done, a finger pointing session between India and Pakistan is likely to blow out of proportions in the coming days which can possibly lead to an escalation of tensions between the arch rival nations. India on the other hand must gear itself to ensure protection of their own cricketers during the upcoming 20-20 IPL tournament due to kick off on 10th April, as a reaction seems all too evident.
Barack Obama has naturally condemned this tragic event but the US needs to realize that the lawlessness in Pakistan cannot be quenched by the mere use of force. It must stand to be one of the biggest blunders of the Bush administration when on Nov 3rd the then President General Pervaiz Musharraf an ally of George W. Bush, deliberately destroyed the judiciary. What remained an ironic twist of fate was that during the ensuing crisis the USA chose to support the actions of an individual [Pervaiz Musharraf] and deliberately sidelined the restoration of the Supreme Court in Pakistan. A mistake which now forever haunt the people of Pakistan.
The American forces must now continue to engage with the Pakistan Army to help empower them to cleanse the trouble spots in Pakistan, while pressure needs to be applied upon the elected government to improve and empower the independence of Judiciary in Pakistan. It is only when a society feels the security of a free and fair society will it have the will to shun terrorism and bring into accountability the perpetrators, for now the corrupt and ruthless have a far stronger hand as compared to the weak and down trodden.
The United States of America has remained in a very influential position in Pakistani politics and only if the Barack administration chooses to, it can potentially guide even this country towards CHANGE.