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?
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.