America's new Pak worry

BlogHer Original Post

If you thought the U.S. has begun its journey to end its Asian wars, hold your horses of optimism. Pakistan, America's frontline in its fight against terror, is slipping, one day at a time, bit by bit, into chaos, and it will need more than a helping hand and words of encouragement for its elected government to regain control. When the Swat deal happened a few weeks back, many feared this could be the beginning of a slow takeover of Pakistan by extremists. An attack on a team of cricketers this week in broad daylight and at the heart of second largest city of the country tells us why the concern may be legitimate and pressing.

Aftermath Of Attack On Sri Lankan Cricketers In Lahore

On Tuesday, a dozen gunmen -- armed with automatic rifles, a rocket launcher and explosives --- calmly stepped out of auto-rickshaws and cars, sprayed bullets at the convoy carrying Sri Lankan and Pakistani players on their way to Lahore's Gaddafi stadium, and the made away. The attack left eight dead -- including six security men -- and injured six Sri Lankan team members and a coach. The team was flown out in a Pakistan Army chopper. The series has been abandoned.

The attack has been compared to the recent Mumbai carnage: But this one in Lahore is far more problematic:


  • Unlike the Mumbai hotels and railway station, which were soft and unguarded targets, the Sri Lankan tour was planned with the promise of blanket security. Pakistan was aware this could be its final chance at saving its cricket diplomacy. The Australian, English and other international cricket teams had already refused to tour Pakistan. India backed out after the Mumbai attacks (and must be thanking their lucky stars and the Indian government they did). Sri Lanka -- an insurgency-ravaged country itself -- rose to the occasion and agreed to play in Pakistan. Pakistan had little scope for error. But it failed to deliver. It is a co-host -- along with India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka -- for the 2011 cricket World Cup. If participating countries refuse to play in Pakistan, it will most likely lose its place on that list.

  • The attack was on camera for everyone to see. Accusations of a security lapse are coming hard and fast. A CC TV shows the assailants walking away and then escaping with not so much as a pursuit. Not one of them was shot. And unlike Mumbai, they all escaped. What happened? Is this just inefficiency, callousness, or has the security machinery been compromised? Will we get some answers?

  • The game of cricket is the one religion that binds the sub-continent. The passion for the game is immense. Little surprise that even when countries are taking political potshots at each other, "cricket diplomacy" continues. This attack has attempted to snap the thread that precariously binds the region. Pakistan did not need this now. It's cricket team, once world champions, has lately started to mirror the country's political chaos.

  • It's the old adage at play: doing the right thing at the right time. Pakistan's latest attempt at democracy comes at such a bad time, it will be a herculean task for them to pull it off. Those of us lucky to enjoy the fruits of a free society know that democracy is no turn-key project. It needs decades of constant nurturing to clear out inefficiencies, incompetency and corruption. It comes as no surprise that the newly elected government is busy settling political scores (Jahane Rumi's post about the political drama). That's part of growing up. But Pakistan --  which finds itself in the middle of an ongoing global confrontation and the loss of federal control in many parts of the northwest -- doesn't have the luxury of time. It needs a short-cut to democratic stability. It needs to put behind its political machinations and grow up real fast. And the U.S. will most likely have to add Pakistan to its list of problems that need to be sorted out for any hope of lasting stability in the region.

  • Pakistan's first step toward getting this sorted has been its willingness to accept  a) its failure to secure the players and b) its own role -- (along with Western nations which they hold equally responsible) -- in creating the Frankenstein that is returning to devour it. Many of the local militant groups were happily harbored for years by the state machinery to back up the unrest in the disputed northern region of Kashmir.

This is an uphill task. While the U.S. is fighting its battles or its ghosts -- depending on who you are inclined to believe -- thousands of miles away from home, Pakistan's war is in its own backyard. As long as the war for peace lasts, Pakistan will probably remain in turmoil and the cash-strapped U.S. will have to help.

India, now preparing for the world's biggest 'dance of democracy' -- a general election -- finds itself squashed between an unstable Pakistan in the west, a violent Sri Lanka in the south, and a rocky Bangladesh in the east that has just emerged from a mutiny.

Like we didn't have enough problems of our own.

Too much is at stake for India -- a growing economy, several domestic problems, an election, a cash-rich international cricket league series which overlaps with the elections, the Commonwealth Games in 2010. Security will have to be its highest priority. Besides an economic slowdown, the incoming government will have to secure its borders really tight if it intends to keep India safe from the surrounding disarray.

Bloggers on the attack:

Sri Lankan cricketer Kumar Sangakkara's first hand account at
A Houswife's Weblog

Asma at Dash of Spice
The World has Stopped Spinning
Global Voices Online
Aamna at Lahore Metblogs

Five Rupees does this curious analysis of Indian commentators on Pakistani blogs. While doing so, he tells us how his country functions
Sid's Blog post on India, Pakistan and terrorism. This was written before the attack
Tanveer Ahmed at Sydney Morning Herald (column)


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