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Help Pakistan in its hour of need

Mahinda Rajapakse, Ranasinghe Premadasa and Karuna Amman

Many have been the intriguing conspiracy theories made about the attack on the Sri Lankan cricketers in Lahore by pundits of cricket, geopolitics, terrorism and associated varied disciplines. Provocative and challenging as these theories forwarded by these individuals are - ranging from Chris Broad, the former English cricketer and match umpire of the abandoned test match to Udaya Gammanpila of the Jatika Hela Urumaya now on JHU platforms canvassing for the 'manapaya' vote at the Western Provincial Council elections, all theories would be of no use unless they provide basic answers to two vital issues: What were the objectives of this attack and against whom was it directed?

It matters little whether Broad was at the scene of the crime sprawled on the floor of a bus to avoid bullets flying around him or that Gammanpila was on political platforms in Lanka where his theory could have been a vote catcher at the Western Provincial Council elections.

The theories have to provide reasons for these senseless and murderous attacks on this group of young Sri Lankan men whose endeavour in life is perfectly harmless, enjoyable and profitable as well - to clout a leather ball with a willow for days on end.

Why the attack?

An immediate fall out of the Lahore attack was that it sent Pakistan which was reeling for some time under extremist fundamentalist attacks and political instability into a near comatose state.

Soon after the attacks, we heard over international news channels claims made by those who have not liked Pakistan very much for long years saying: This incident proves that Pakistani authorities have no control over terrorism. It is now 'a failed state.'

As a corollary came the claim that the days of Pakistan in international cricket were over - at least for the foreseeable future.

If the Pakistani state was under grave threat the government of President Asif Zardari was in a much worse plight. Zardari's popularity in Pakistan had plunged to the lowest levels.

Extremist violence unleashed by al Qaeda, its allies the Taliban - both in Pakistan and Afghanistan - and other extremist groups had the new government hardly one year old, reeling. Besides, Zardari had kicked into his own goal.

His main democratic rival, Nawaz Sharif - two times prime minister - and his brother, the Chief Minister of the Punjab Province were declared unfit to hold any public office by the Pakistani Supreme Court which is said to be strongly influenced by Zardari. Into this heady concoction falls in the attempted assassination of the Sri Lankan cricketers. What better evil could those Pakistani baiters have hoped for?

Sri Lanka-Pakistan ties

The second reason for the attack could be attributed to the close ties that had developed between Sri Lanka and Pakistan since the early '80s. Pakistan has been Sri Lanka's 'all weather friend' for over quarter of a century. The reasons are not solely altruistic. Close ties between the two countries have been mutually advantageous in events of clashes of interests between the giant neighbour, India.

Instances of Pakistan coming to the rescue of Lanka while the rest of the world seemed helpless are too well known to be repeated. India had not liked the growing relations with Pakistan especially in relation to arms purchases nor would it have liked Sri Lanka's support when Pakistan seemed not only cornered in international affairs but also in the field of sport - particularly cricket.

Sri Lanka's gesture of playing in Pakistan this time after the refusal of India to do so prevented Pakistan's isolation in international cricket. Thus the attack on Sri Lankan cricketers could be interpreted as one aimed at destroying this relationship with Pakistan and isolating it.

It has however to be said that India has made no objections to Pakistan-Lankan cricketing ties. In fact in 1996 when the Western cricketing nations refused to play in Sri Lanka citing the threat of terrorism, India and Pakistan made the grand gesture of sending the best of their players to Lanka to play 'friendly' matches here.

But after the terrorist attack on Mumbai Indo-Pak relations that had earlier picked-up, hit rock bottom. The Indian invective appeared so harsh on Pakistan that even in Sri Lanka the suspicion is entertained in some quarters that the attack in Lahore was directed at rupturing the good relations between the two friendly countries, even though there is no proof at all of an Indian hand.

JHU conspiracy thesis

The second conspiracy theory has been voiced by those like Udaya Gammanpila of the JHU, alleging the involvement of the LTTE. The LTTE, now said to be on its last legs cannot be ruled out for such vengeful and despicable acts. The assassination of Rajiv Gandhi who had helped the LTTE so much - even presenting Pirapaharan with a bullet proof jacket and millions of rupees - was killed because of the killing of LTTE cadres by IPKF forces.

Lahore may have been the 'last hurrah' attempted by the LTTE. But all this is still speculation. We do hope that Udaya Gammanpila would provide whatever evidence he has on LTTE involvement. No doubt bashing the LTTE is a good vote catching exercise these days.

ICC thesis

Chris Broad, the ICC match umpire who too had escaped the terrorist bullets on reaching Manchester had at a press conference expressed fears (ABC report March 5) that the Lahore attack may have been aided by a conspiracy involving Pakistan's security forces.

Some of the points he makes are that the bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricketers and Pakistani cricketers were scheduled to leave the hotel for the Gadaffi Stadium at the same time but the Pakistan bus had left five minutes later even though the two buses had left the hotel at the same time on the two previous days. He wants to know the causes for the delay in departure.

On the other hand Broad says that during the Karachi test played previously the Sri Lanka bus went first and the Pakistani bus later.

Broad admits that he has no evidence of a conspiracy but that 'the events had left him perplexed.'

The other accusation made by Broad is that those in the second vehicle following Sri Lankan cricketers were 'sitting ducks' because after the shooting there were no policemen visible at the scene. The Lahore Police Chief  Habib Ur. Rehman however has strongly contradicted Broad on this point. It was precisely because of the valour and bravery of the policemen that the Sri Lankan team and umpires survived, he had said

The Chairman of the Pakistani Cricket Board had asked: 'How can Broad say that when six policemen died?'

Kicking into own goal

Indian authorities should realise that in trying to condemn Pakistan and making the country a non cricket-playing arena, they are kicking into their own goal. Already the Indian authorities have decided to postpone the IPL cricket tournament till Indian elections are over because of inadequate security.

Meanwhile questions are being raised whether the terrorist environment in the sub-continent - Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka - make it possible for the 2011 World Cup to be played here.

English and Australian cricketers have so far played in India despite their fears of a terrorist threat. Even after the Mumbai attack English cricketers came back to India 'to play under record levels of security.'

India is still favoured by Australia, New Zealand and England because the pot of gold is now in India. But if the props of other South Asian nations - Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are knocked out, would India go under another cricketing Raj of the West?

Sub Continental cricket playing nations instead of joining the chorus of condemning Pakistan should help Pakistan to recover and gain its rightful place in international cricket - not declare it an international hellhole.

Pakistan deserves all the help it can get in its hour of grief. Sri Lanka will no doubt move in this direction. Other South Asian brothers too should join in - not merely shout from rooftops at SAARC Summits about South Asian co-operation.









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