March 3, 2009

This is a fire that threatens everyone

Let us be clear: Gaddafi Stadium is not the only place where an attack on cricket will grab headlines

The raging fire that has consumed so much else of Pakistan's national fabric has now singed cricket, too © AFP

What we had all feared has finally happened. A visiting cricket team has been attacked in Pakistan. A large cricket-watching audience that was anticipating the third day's play in the Test at Lahore has been left shocked and aghast. Everyone is hoping and praying that the players' injuries will heal quickly.

This is a challenging time to be invoking hope and prayer. Pakistan has been burning and suffering for a long time now. Hope in these parts was already in short supply. At a time like this, it seems non-existent.

You can already hear all cricket boards around the world say "we told you so." They kept saying Pakistan is not a safe country. They refused to visit. They have been proved right. The Pakistani authorities have been proved wrong. The raging fire that has consumed so much else of Pakistan's national fabric has now singed cricket, too. No cricket lover thought the worst-case scenario would ever come to pass. But it has.

For quite a while now, opinion leaders in Pakistan cricket have argued that terrorists do not and will not target cricket. Well, so much for that. Cricket in this part of the world has now become a victim of its own success. Whatever evil mind planned this understood that attacking cricket would be the surest way not merely to grab the headlines but also to hang on to them for several news cycles.

In the days and weeks to follow, the usual hand-wringing and the predictably endless hemming and hawing about the perpetrators of this attack will take place. A foreign hand will be blamed. Intelligence and security failures will be condemned. Official statements will be proffered. Almost certainly we, the cricket-following public, will be left more and more confused with each passing day.

So where do we go from here?

Whatever evil mind planned this understood that attacking cricket would be the surest way not merely to grab the headlines but also to hang on to them for several news cycles

An important next step is for Pakistan's cricket authorities to accept that they are up against powerful elements well beyond the boundary and well beyond their control. Restoring Pakistan's credibility as a cricketing host now requires some clear major development in the national political landscape and a sustained period of countrywide peace and stability. In the current circumstances, which find Pakistan politically adrift on a tense geo-political faultline, that is a very tall order. But it is not impossible.

The other, equally critical move is for the world cricketing fraternity to stand with Pakistan against the terrorists. Let us be clear: Gaddafi Stadium is not the only place where an attack on cricket will grab headlines. This is a fire that threatens everyone, and everyone has to come together to understand it and fight it.

Pakistan cricket has suffered other body blows before, but none has come so close to its jugular. In the immediate aftermath there are too many questions that need to be addressed but, sooner or later, the most difficult one will have to be confronted. We have to take a long and honest look at the forces and events that have led to a beloved pastime becoming transformed into a horrific platform for the perpetration of evil. We have to confront whatever ugly reality lies beneath these events and we have to conquer it.

This is not a challenge Pakistan can deal with alone. All cricketing nations, in particular those in Pakistan's immediate neighbourhood, need to join forces and present a united front to the terrorism that has spared no one in South Asia. Abandoning Pakistan at this moment will be the easy way out. Let us not forget that in any difficult situation the easy way out is never the right answer.

Saad Shafqat is a writer based in Karachi

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Regretful on March 5, 2009, 1:15 GMT

    Has anybody considered that this attack was perhaps against the most boring cricket played on dead pitches? The games were a is like watching Chanderpaul batting all day long.

    To solve the case, start from the 1500 poor souls who bought tickets to Karachi match...or maybe leave the case perhaps was done as public service to eliminate the most wasteful sport from Pakistan. Unfortunately 6 had to die to free Pakistan from this addiction.

    To eliminate terrorism forever, Pakistan must distribute soccer balls to all youngsters (take away their cricket equipment).

    If Pakistan is breeding terrorism to make gains in Kashmir, please don't bother to use arms...I'm signing off my claim (I'm Indian) to Kashmir...I can't visit the place sans risk or buy property there whereas anybody can buy any property in USA even without a visa or having to visit the nation.

    World has changed is about individual interests and freedom except ALL MUST PLAY SOCCER. AMEN!

  • Usual on March 4, 2009, 15:02 GMT

    Nobody can help a nation which is not ready to accept help or is not sincere about it ! Instead of asking for help from other countries (like it always does), Pakistan should do some introspection. The strength to fight should come from within, and Pakistan should show to the world that it is serious in intent and forthcoming in action.

  • Ashok on March 4, 2009, 14:49 GMT

    Saed you are right on, where you quoted the fears of many cricketing countries which have been confirmed by this terrorist attack. Where angels feared to tread, Sri Lankan did with almost fatal consequences.Pak. Govt. guaranteed the safety of the players but failed in its promise because of very casual/lax security and intelligence. Where Mrs. Bhutto was murdered in cold blood by the locals, what hope of safety a foreigner has in Palistan? Pak. terrorists also infilterated into India and carried out the Mumbai massacre. Elimination of terrorist cells should be the first & foremost goal of the Pak. govt., if Pakistan is to maintain respect at the international level. Terrorist do not distinguish between Sportsmen or civilians. Their belief of killing is a religious act and if caught/killed makes them "martyrs". Hence the whole approach should start by educating the Pak. public with the basic ,belief that "killing any humans is an evil act which will put them in Jhehnum not martyrs".

  • Muhammed on March 4, 2009, 13:51 GMT

    This was undoubtedly a worst day in the history of cricket. Imagine the mental agony and torture of cricketers and officials, besides the physical injuries. I am appalled at the Pakistan officials who claim that excellent security was provided. Pakistan had promised presidential security. I do not know of any member of Pakistan senate or cabinet that travels in vehicles that are not bullet proof. Usually, all roads are blocked when politicians are traveling. Pakistan security may have done last minute heroics to save Srilankan cricketers and officials but the arrangements left much to be desired. Unfortunately, the political situation in Pakistan, particularly in Punjab, is dictating the utilization of resources. I am sure that the security was mobilized elsewhere as Pakistani politician are more concerened in saving theie seats rather than protecting foreign ambassadors of sport. Pakistan Government should come forward and accept their mistakes and make sweeping changes in security.

  • Shankar on March 4, 2009, 13:00 GMT

    Let us also be very clear that Gaddafi Stadium IS the only place where an attack on cricket has grabbed the headlines so far.

    It is true that Pakistan and Pakistani Cricket need help from outside - desperately so. However no one can expect that such help will just come automatically. It is absurd to expect that outside help will come pouring in while it is business as usual in Pakistan.

    Pakistan should show intent to fight terrorism and back it up by some solid action to build the necessary confidence in those who can help. While that, what the government did in Swat valley does not help the cause. Neither does blaming the "foreign hand" for a home grown terrorism.

  • Himan on March 4, 2009, 12:40 GMT

    Terrorism is evil no matter where it is unleashed. May it be in the US, UK or in south asia, it is terrorism and the victims are innocent people. These terrorist organisations have a strong network. They definitely have inter links. Their agenda is simillar. Blaming a country or a government won't solve the problem at hand. All countries (governemnts) have equal responsibilty in dealing with terrorism. Let this incedent open the eyes of the masses all around the world. Let this unfortunate incedent drive everybody towards a world without terrorism.

  • Albert on March 4, 2009, 11:21 GMT

    Lets hope that performance of both teams will further improve from now on, like that alert and courageous bus driver...

  • Jake on March 4, 2009, 11:10 GMT

    Firstly it is a sad thing that this has happened. Pakistan was one of the bastions for the higher forms of cricket. But why is there such a defeatist attitude from the writer and from the others. The mood should be of fighting this real and homegrown scourge. I don't see what Pakistan's neighbours can do here, they do not encourage or try to make peace with these kinds of elements in their country. All they can do is stop these human resources from getting exported to their shores. The sacrifice and revolution will have to come from within Pakistan. Once that is done forget the cricketers, even tourists would go there as it is a ruggedly beautiful country.

  • Nabeel on March 4, 2009, 9:51 GMT

    Unfortunately, all countries will take the 'easy way out' - they have no direct incentive to help Pakistan with its situation. And besides agreeing to play against Pakistan at neutral venues, what else can other countries do? Collectively condemn the attacks (which they have obviously done)? That doesn't really translate into much help for Pakistan.

  • DON on March 4, 2009, 9:39 GMT

    Defiantly the saddest moment in world cricket and also one of the most unforgettable strategies in the history of sports. Fortunately the players are not under critical scenario but the damaged as done to Pakistan cannot be rectified. Anyway Pakistan can build up on this horror as no terrorist group can survive without public support and they can eliminate these groups in full. Then the rebuilding of cricket will be automatic. My person prospect, as a Sri Lanken I feel very sorry for the country and all my Pakistani friends are more suffered due to this, as they are extremely nice people. As Mehaela said Sri Lanka wont never fail to extend the support to Sri Lanka in the future, though we believe that stronger security should have been provided. We than all the brave soldiers and the driver who save our hero despite concerning their own lives.

  • No featured comments at the moment.