And who said terrorists don’t attack cricketers?

Pakistan is the jihadi prize

It is too early to arrive at a conclusive assessment on the motives behind the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore. [Update: See Prem Panicker’s take.] But it is compelling to see this attack as the latest in the series that include the ones on Benazir Bhutto in 2007 and the Islamabad Marriott in September 2008. The possibility cannot be ruled out completely, but there is a small chance that the hit was ordered by LTTE (and carried out by sundry terrorists recruited in Pakistan). [Update: See B Raman’s post] However this is contra-indicated by the fact that so far, the Tamil Tigers have not claimed responsibility for the attack.

The attacks on Benazir Bhutto, to the ones on the Islamabad Marriott and many others across Pakistan suggest an attempt to destabilise the existing political order prevailing in the country. What next is an open question. Do the jihadis want to use the ensuing state of turmoil to turn Pakistan first into a war zone and then into a Taliban state? Or is the purpose to reinstate the Pakistani military establishment into the corridors of power? Or worse, are these not separate questions, but two different formulations of the same question? Would the next Pakistani military dictator care whether he is the president of the Pakistani republic or the Amir-ul-momineen of an Islamic emirate?

The answers are uncertain. In the face of the uncertainty, and in the light of past evidence, the prudent course is to treat the Pakistani army as connected to the jihadi groups in a military-jihadi complex. It is unclear if the Pakistani army wants to sever these connections, and unclear if it can sever them even if it wants to. Transforming the Pakistani military establishment therefore is the first step in stabilising Pakistan.

And unless Pakistan is stabilised it is only a matter of time before attacks like the one on Sri Lankan cricketers, and earlier like the one in Mumbai will be common across the cities of the world.

23 thoughts on “And who said terrorists don’t attack cricketers?”

  1. Could the motive be part of a continuing gameplan to force the non-Muslim world to suspend contact with Pakistan?

  2. The gameplan is getting clearer. Turn Pakistan into an Afghanistan of the 1990s. It then becomes the home of the global jihad. Unlike 2002, the US can’t attack Pakistan because of…you know…

  3. >And unless Pakistan is stabilised it is only a matter of time before attacks like the one on Sri Lankan cricketers, and earlier like the one in Mumbai will be common across the cities of the world.

    I disagree.
    This is what the pakis would like us to believe so they can continue extorting the civilised world. I remember your recommendation to NOT give in to pakistani coercion.

    You had also talked about a macarthur like plan to put the country on the road of self governance. The only hitch is a macarthur like plan is applicable if the people is question are civilised, with an individual and collective interest in peace.

    Neither are applicable here. Pakistan has only one reason for existence: jihad.

    Containment is hence the only option. Using walls, guns, and whatever else.

  4. I am surprised that no attacker was killed/caught considering the following facts:

    1) Sri Lankan team had the highest security possible in Pakistan (must have had heavy police escort)

    2) The firing continued for 15 minutes !

    Can you believe this ?! A bunch of guys can keep fighting for 1/4th of an hour against the “highest” possible security set-up in Pakistan and still run away ?!

    I guess this is possible only if the attackers had support from army/police to escape!

  5. Ranjith

    As a rule, I would not ascribe to malice until plain incompetence can be ruled out. Perhaps their best is not good enough.

    But you do have a valid point. 15 mins, TV cameras and cops all over: how come they escaped, presumably unhurt? These things *are* possible, though.

    AG,

    Complete insulation is impossible. Not in the 21st century. Even practical containment is impossible. The only solution is to do a MacArthur.

  6. Add this to the pandemonium:

    “But a Pakistani minister, Sardar Nabil Ahmed Gabol, reportedly told private Geo TV that evidence suggested the attackers came across the border from India.

    He said the assault came in reaction to the Mumbai attacks, and was a “declaration of open war on Pakistan by India”. “

  7. There’s nothing about this attack that would give us comfort that it won’t be replicated in our cities. Worst, the jihadis got away with it. Which means more money, weapons etc., for the Pakistani military.

  8. “Would the next Pakistani military dictator care whether he is the president of the Pakistani republic or the Amir-ul-momineen of an Islamic emirate?”

    Thank you for recognizing the issue for what it is. The way I see it, the writing on the wall is 100% clear to every part of the Pakistani right wing — we are headed towards an Islamic state. Given that, there seems to be a power struggle going on within the right wing for who will control the actual details of the next regime.

  9. A Pakistani minister insinuated that the attackers may have been across the border from India seeking revenge for the Mumbai attacks. He also said that this could be construed as an “open declaration of war by India on Pakistan”.

    In other news, Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini has converted to Christianity in order to appease US President Barack Obama.

  10. Why did they attack SL players??

    SL is a budding friend of Pak state and so Pak agents must have warned the terrorists not to touch their guests.

    So, I can only conclude the rogues are going overboard and not ready to listen to their masters in Pak establishment??

  11. I never thought strategists to be black comedians, but Prem Panicker takes the cake on this one:

    “Manohar must be a very relieved man just now. Without suggesting that Sri Lankan players being injured in a terrorist strike in Lahore [Images] today is insignificant, consider the what-if: A headline reading ‘Sachin Tendulkar injured in terrorist attack in Lahore’ would have had cataclysmic consequences: nationwide rioting, and on overwhelming political consensus in favour of war.”

  12. Nitin,

    Complete insulation is impossible. Not in the 21st century. Even practical containment is impossible. The only solution is to do a MacArthur.

    Not sure how doing a MacArthur would work. Surely MacArthur didn’t have to deal with a Japanese “pan-Asianist” “al-Qaeda” or an upsurge of widely dispersed “Asianist” ideologues who were hell bent on ‘liberating’ – by suicide if necessary – a fellow Asian country. Nor did 1940s Imperial Japan have powerful benefactors left by the end of WWII, like militarized Pakistan has today.

    Finally there’s the question of who gives the money to bankroll a MacArthur plan given the current recession.

  13. The rogue theory is a nice fiction.

    There are no rogues – the rogue is the establishment. All this rogue theory is so that the left hand (establishment) gets the money for the right (fictitious rogue). And the US has responded, with money, as usual…

  14. My take is that LTTE wanted SL players to be taken as hostages and used as bargaining chips to negotiate a ceasefire with SL govt.

    But LTTE has a clear policy not to harm cricket players, which is why I guess the attackers where trying to not kill the players themselves.

    It is possible that attackers underestimated the resistance they would face, and withdrew when it was clear they may not be able to take hostages.

    It would have bought some credibility to Jihadi organisations who would have shown themselves off as willing to stand up for the oppressed, wether its Kashmir, Palestine or Jaffna. What more, they would have potrayed Sl govt. as being a stooge of India.

  15. This attack is very disturbing, I am also surprised that the Sri Lankan cricketing authorities allowed this tour to go ahead. If I was a Sri Lankan cricketer I would be most unhappy with them.

    It is unclear if the Pakistani army wants to sever these connections, and unclear if it can sever them even if it wants to. Transforming the Pakistani military establishment therefore is the first step in stabilising Pakistan.

    This is the heart of the problem really and several Pakistani commentators have made the same point. By involving itself with these external agents the Pakistan military is actually priveleging uncertain and nebulous external objectives over that of domestic security and undermining the viability of the state itself. Unfortunately, the Pakistani army has shown itself singularly unwilling to do this. Adherence to this strategy will cause an implosion of the Pakistani state.

    The Macarthur option may be superficially attractive but it not applicable in this case for several reasons. Japan was a defeated power in 1945, exhausted after years of total war, Pakistan isn’t quite there yet and possesses nuclear weapons something Japan did not. Japanese society was also more centralised than PAkistan, once the Emperor decided to surrender, the resistance collapsed, no single figure can do this for PAkistan. Japan also had the advantage of being a developed, industrial society with some experience of democracy. Pakistan is still mainly a rural, peasant society which had not fully modernised yet. Finally, the difficulty is that the Macarthur solution will need an external state to act as a security gurantor and effectively occupy Pakistan for several decades at least; as is still the case with Japan. This will be an expensive and costly exercise for whichever state chooses to do this.

  16. There could be three reasons the gunmen got away after the shooting:

    After they committed their act, the terrorists hid behind a tree and
    a) changed into their ISI civvvies
    b) changed into their pakistan army uniforms
    c) changed into their pakistan police uniforms

    presto, chango, voila!

  17. Analyzing the mechanics of the operation, it seems that there was clear complicity between the gunmen and the police at least. How else can one explain that in a busy thoroughfare where the VIP security is supposed to be high, can a car laden with heavy bags that includes rocket launchers intercept a VIP motorcade?
    The gunmen were there for 20 minutes and coolly got into autorickshaws and left. Looking at the video they walked nonchalantly after the event. It almost gives the impression that they must have known that there would be no police around the area.
    Recently the top officials of Lahore were changed. There could have been other reasons, but the confluence of factors can’t be ignored. Further, the fact that nothing has been done only goes to prove that it is just not the Army-jihadi combo, but the police must have provided tacit support.

  18. Sri Lankan Cricketer Kumar Sangakkara gives some first hand details:

    Our team bus left with three to four police cars in a convoy with around 12 policeman and security officers, including motorbike outriders. Along the route road junctions were cleared and side roads closed to ensure we passed through the traffic easily

    And according to Nirupama Subramanian CCTV footage showed gunmen walking away calmly:

    A third group of three [attackers] could be seen walking on the street without fear of being pursued or stopped

  19. I agree with what Asia Times’ Pakistan Bureue Chief says:

    Syed Saleem Shahzad in Atimes


    Tuesday’s attack in the Pakistani city of Lahore on a convoy carrying Sri Lankan cricketers was carried out by disgruntled Punjabi militants seeking to extract concessions from the government, Asia Times Online has learned.

    And the 12 highly trained gunmen who fled the scene after killing six police officers and wounding six of the cricketers had planned to take the sportsmen hostage, not kill them, high-level sources maintain.

    The militants, working directly under the command of a joint Punjabi and Kashmiri leadership based in the North Waziristan tribal area and allied with al-Qaeda, planned the Lahore operation. The object was to hold the cricketers ransom in exchange for jailed militants and the safe passage of their colleagues to North Waziristan.

    ….

    The government accepted all of the demands, but it refused to release those prisoners who were not from Swat. At the top of this list was Maulana Abdul Aziz, a radical cleric from the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in Islamabad who was arrested in July 2007 while fleeing from the mosque after security forces stormed it. The government also refused to release several other militants, including a very important person, who were recently arrested in Islamabad.

    The Punjabi militants were clearly upset at having their demands rejected, while the Pashtuns got what they wanted. The attack in Lahore was meant to redress the “injustice”.

    Their attack in Lahore on Tuesday is testimony to this; they are now prepared to take the war theater to urban centers to get their comrades released, and anybody is fair game – from cricketers to high-profile personalities including ministers, diplomats, politicians and other influential people.

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