Mar 5, 2009

No closer to the truth

A day after killers struck outside the Gaddafi Stadium and then walked away scot-free, we are no closer than we were amidst the immediate aftermath of the attack to knowing who carried it out, or why. The flurry of charges from the media and members of the government that our neighbours to the east may have had a hand make no sense at all – given that the gunmen have not been apprehended and no other evidence points in this particular direction. There has also been conjecture about changes in the security setup made a day before the attack, a tip -off regarding a threat to the Sri Lankans and the possibility that the gunmen intended to kidnap the team. Reports suggest the Pakistani team may have been the actual target.The government has done little to clear the mist of confusion or calm the deep unease the audacious attack has created. Indeed, the interior adviser’s media talk in Islamabad seemed to add to the suspicions that no one at all with an iota of good sense is in charge of the country. The video footage of the attacks raises several questions? How come in the 25-minute crossfire not a single militant died or was even injured? Why couldn’t, or didn’t, reinforcement of the police reach the area in time, given that the firing went on for almost half an hour? Why was the area not cordoned or sealed in time to block the exit of the militants? The brave men who lost their lives should be remembered but those responsible for lapses need to be taken to task. Certainly, even after an act of terrorism that chilled the nation – and many beyond its borders – no one seems willing to accept responsibility. No heads have rolled, not even that of the DGPR in Punjab, who immediately after the incident absurdly attempted to portray it as some kind of trivial gun-battle between criminal gangs in which the Sri Lankan team bus had accidentally been caught up. We need to look at the matter with logic and rationality. We all know that groups capable of carrying out the well-planned and expertly executed attack we saw Tuesday exist within the country. It is useless to turn a blind eye to the presence of forces such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) which have the capacity to stage such acts of terrorism. They of course also have reason to try and extract revenge for the crackdown against the group carried out over the past few weeks, in the aftermath of what happened at Mumbai. There is reason to believe they are a prime suspect. But, of course, nothing can be known until the gunmen are found; so far they remain free. Allegations that a deliberate attempt may have been made to create a security situation ahead of the lawyers’ long march have, as yet, little solid basis. We can only hope that the truth will be uncovered. Otherwise, in the heated political climate of today, all kinds of rumours will continue to circulate and add to the uncertainty that threatens to engulf us. For now, amidst the silence that prevails within an empty Gaddafi Stadium, its pitch and outfield visibly scuffed by the helicopter that airlifted the Sri Lankans out of the arena, there is relief that things did not turn out to be even worse; that no visiting player lost his life. There is the knowledge too that the stadium will remain empty now for many months, perhaps for years. While incredibly, there are still calls that the ICC ensure the 2011 World Cup be staged partially in Pakistan as planned. We need to put passion aside and accept the reality. There is now no doubt at all that Pakistan is unsafe; no sporting team should be asked to visit it, unless we wish for blood on our hands. The priority must be to assess how order can be restored in our state and the violent forces that operate within it eradicated. Turning our attention to this would be a far more useful exercise than pointing fingers towards neighbours or pretending that the Pakistan is not a terrorist haven. The events of March 3 prove that it is and will remain so till we act decisively to restore the rule of law within it.

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