Mar 4, 2009

Who is to blame for the 3/3 incident?

While many in Pakistan have already pointed the finger of suspicion at India for masterminding the 3/3 terrorist attacks in Lahore, there were those in the country’s security establishment who suspect the possible involvement of some Jihadi elements from the Punjab in the bloody assault, which clearly has the hallmark of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.Tuesday’s terror attack is one of the worst strikes on the world of sports since the assault on Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972. Although, there wasn’t any official statement from Islamabad blaming India, Interior Adviser Rehman Malik told newsmen in Islamabad he could not rule out a “foreign hand” behind the carnage. The Foreign Office spokesman in Islamabad refrained from directly blaming India while condemning the attack, saying the assault was perpetrated by the enemies of the Pak-Sri Lankan friendship. However, many of the Pakistani hawks, like the former ISI chief Gen (retd) Hameed Gul, were quick to blame the Indian Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) for staging a tit-for-tat attack to avenge the Mumbai assault, saying India wanted Pakistan to be declared a terrorist state.However, there were those in the country’s security establishment who describe the attack as a well thought-out plan orchestrated by the Punjabi militants, who had been furious over some recent actions taken by the government in the aftermath of the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai, especially the arrest of several leading Jihadi leaders who were set to face a court trial. These elements believe the double-edged blood-spattered attack was aimed at damaging the credibility of the government for such a grave security failure, besides releasing the rising pressure that had mounted over the Jihadi elements in Pakistan after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.Sources in the security establishment added the Jihadis might be thinking that the 3/3 attacks would force India to go on the back foot, as had been the case with Islamabad after the Mumbai attacks and the ensuing allegations of a Pakistani hand.These sources pointed out the attack in Lahore, reportedly conducted by a group of 12 armed men with backpacks, most of whom had beards, bore similarity to those 10 gunmen with backpacks, who had carried out the Mumbai attacks. In the first ever attack of its kind on any visiting cricket team across the world, at least a dozen highly trained masked gunmen who had scattered in three groups, first targeted the bus carrying the team with a rocket launcher (which misfired), then tossed hand grenades (which could not hit the vehicle) and later opened indiscriminate fire, killing seven people including five policemen, and wounding six members of the Sri Lankan squad.Talking to newsmen in Lahore after the attack, Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer said: “It was a planned terror attack and these were the same methods and the same sort of people that had hit Mumbai.”On the other hand, a senior PPP MNA from Sindh Nabeel Gabol has blamed India in so many words for having carried out Tuesday’s attack on the Sri Lankan team. Gabol, while speaking on the Geo television, said: ìThe Lahore incident was a replay of the 26/11 attack and most likely carried out by Indian intelligence agents. I am saying so because of the fact that those investigating the gory incident have already recovered some Indian-made weapons as well as food items from the crime scene.”In a related development, there were reports that former Inspector General of Punjab Shaukat Javed, who was sent home after the imposition of governor’s rule, had warned the provincial authorities in an official communiquÈ on Jan 22, 2009 that the RAW agents in Pakistan might target the Sri Lankan cricket team during its tour to Pakistan.But the fact remains that there is no precedence for the Indian intelligence agency having the ability to infiltrate an important urban capital of Pakistan and carrying out such a well-organised and high-profile terrorist attack — that, too, by using a whole group of gunmen.Sources point out the RAW-sponsored terrorist attacks in Pakistan in the past had been merely confined to bomb blasts of limited nature, which had been carried out through time devices planted by individuals like Sarabjit Singh, who is languishing in a Lahore jail after being condemned to death for killing over a dozen Pakistanis in a series of bomb blasts across the Punjab in 1990.However, the nature of the Lahore terror attack, which was well-coordinated and carried out by a group of highly-trained gunmen armed with extremely sophisticated explosives, seems reminiscent of the Mumbai attacks, which has sparked fresh concerns that Pakistan, already wrecked by the Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked militant violence, might be imploding. The bloody assault has come as a huge setback to the government in Islamabad as it has confirmed fears of the international community that Pakistan is one of the most dangerous places on Earth today.

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