The attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore constitutes a well planned strategy of the terrorists as they were carried out right in the heart of the city and led to a blame game, an accusing finger pointed at India, and denials from the Pakistani security apparatus of any lapses on their part. The Pakistani minister of state for shipping, Sardar Nabil Ahmed Gabol levelled baseless charges against the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) for designing and instigating the Lahore attacks. This was clearly aimed at deflecting attention from Pakistan’s own internal problems and thereby distracting the world community from the main issue of state’s failure to provide for high security lapse and incapability to curb terrorists. Ignoring all these allegations, the courageous people of Lahore have criticised the attacks and showed solidarity with those killed and injured. The Lahore attack has far reaching implications. The attack shows that terrorist had more than essential information about their targets and had a hidden message.
The Lahore attacks were planned with wider damage in mind. Lahore is a very old city and is noted for its composite culture. Not for nothing is it called the cultural capital of Pakistan. With this attack, the terrorists want to create an impression that anything against Islam is not welcome in Pakistan, a direct attack at the inclusive, Sufi tradition that Lahore is known for.
The attack has also hit at an important sporting symbol in South Asia, cricket, also a very emotive issue. The region is known to produce some of the finest cricket players. Till now cricket players had remained outside the purview of the terrorists because of the popular sentiments attached to them. The attack has paid put to this notion and almost ruined the possibility of Pakistan co-hosting international events like the Cricket World Cup 2011, at least for the foreseeable future. The psychological effect on the people has been devastating.
Terrorists gained the maximum coverage from media and international community through these attacks. The situation in Pakistan seems to such that the terror creators seem to be thriving, cocking a snook at the democratically elected government Islamabad. Despite the severe criticism from the general public, the terrorists seem to have achieved what they had aimed for, spreading a feeling of insecurity among the masses while providing encouragement to other terrorist organisations to continue carrying out such attacks. The attacks have raised doubts about the credibility and the seriousness of the government to protect its citizens from such attacks and punish the culprits. The attacks also show the growing audacity and strength of the terrorist groups and their capacity to destabilise the elected government. With a history of military rule in Pakistan, this could well to another coup and the possibility of a military junta taking over again. In one of such indications Pakistan Army General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has told President Asif Zardari to set house in order otherwise face the consequences.
Pakistan’s economy, which is already in a bad shape, is going to suffer more. It is said that money is a coward and runs away from conflict zones. Continuing instability could shake confidence of investors in Pakistan economy. Dr Hasan-Askari Rizvi, a Pakistani defence and political analyst says that, “Even Pakistani investors and the moneyed class are likely to send their capital abroad if extremism and terrorism continue to expand their domain.”
Regionally as well as internationally, the attacks have led to a loss of face for Pakistan. It seems China has discreetly told Pakistan to check out the situation which may spill over to its territories bordering Pakistan. The Sri Lankan government has shown remarkable restraint in its reaction to the attacks, and this has given the Pakistani diplomatic machinery breathing space. However, no cricket team including Sri Lanka is going to play in Pakistan fro some time. India, the prime target of terrorist organisations, either operating from or supported by Islamic fundamentalists based in Pakistan, has reviewed the situation after the attacks. In the recently held Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and attended by external affairs minister, defence minister and home minister it was decided that the emerging situation in Pakistan will lead to increased cross-border terrorism and needs more attention. Thus, a politically stable Pakistan is the need of the hour and is in India’s interests.
Politically, the attacks have re-energised the opposition parties. Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) led by Nawaz Sharif has demanded a political order based on ‘rule of law’ and ‘independence of judiciary’ and has emerged successful in getting deposed chief Justice Ifthikar Chaudhary reinstated. If political parties and democratic process regains more strength in Pakistan, it will be good for everyone.
For a long time now, Pakistan has been a safe haven for Islamic terrorists who have the capability of planning and executing major terrorist activities anywhere in the world. New York, London, Delhi, Mumbai, Kabul and now Lahore have witnessed acts of terrorism, with the terror links traced back to Pakistan. Over and above Pakistan’s nuclear proliferation record, especially the AQ Khan saga, have raised concerns internationally.
The religious obscurantists and fanatics may lead the entire world yet to its darkest phase, if left alone and unchecked. There is a need to take strict action against the perpetrators of violence. What Israel did after the 1972 Munich Olympics can be viewed as one of the options by hitting the terrorists in their dens. But, above all, it is necessary to get to the root of terror and it is here that both the Indian and Pakistani governments can take a lead and work together to stem the flow of terror. It will be a sterling service rendered not only to South Asia but also the entire world.
(Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the views either of the Editorial Committee or the Centre for Land Warfare Studies)