The regularity of terrorist attacks in Pakistan has meant that individual incidents are rarely headline news. It’s not the methods used by the terrorists, or the number of deaths and injuries caused during the attack that made this week’s attack so shocking, but the fact that terrorists targeted the Sri Lankan cricket team and what it represents.
Tuesday’s events reveal that the terrorist’s flawed logic has been expanded from attacking western values and supporters of the Pakistani establishment, to symbols that represent the way of life in Pakistan.
Cricket is part of the glue that binds society together; by attacking cricketers they attack the hopes and aspirations of millions of Pakistanis who invest their energy, time and love in pursuit of their passion. Cricket also represents one of the final strands of a significant relationship that Pakistan has with the outside world. Understandably that strand will now be weakened because it is unlikely that any team will tour there in the foreseeable future and only a sizeable miracle will prevent the 2011 World Cup from moving to another host.
The most concerning aspect of the attacks strategically is the
location. Lahore has previously been free from the troubles. Cities
such as Islamabad and Rawalpindi have been the targeted location for
the Islamists, many of whom emanate from the training grounds located
in the North West Frontier close to the Afghanistan border. By
attacking high profile targets in Lahore the terrorists are trying to
demonstrate that nowhere in Pakistan is safe. Ultimately, they want to
illustrate that Pakistan is a failed state with no resemblance of
normality left; they want to show the outside world that terror is the
status quo until they are able to install a quasi-Taliban regime.
Pakistan has rightly been criticised for not doing enough to counter the threat of Islamic militancy on its border region with Afghanistan and to prevent its intelligence services becoming infiltrated by Islamists. But we should also recognise its renewed effort to stop the terrorists. Pakistan’s government has spent over a billion dollars fighting militants and plans to spend over $4 billion on rehabilitating the people consequently displaced in the tribal areas. And let’s not forget the immense bravery shown by the security services working on the ground – men who lost their lives protecting the Sri Lankan cricketers and ICC officials.
It’s all too easy in these circumstances for us to allow Pakistan to fall into terminal decline because her troubles are just too difficult to comprehend, let alone resolve. But it’s now more important than ever the international community supports Pakistan in her quest to win the battle against the insurgents. Pakistan’s economy is struggling, inflation is running at 25% and her currency has depreciated by more than 20% since the start of the year. It’s clear that Pakistan is in need of significant financial aid. This was recognised by President Obama when he pledged to triple American aid to Pakistan on the condition that substantial progress is made on closing down terrorist training camps – the rest of the international community will underline its apparent approval for the Obama administration by following his lead.
For the future security of Britain and Pakistan the Foreign Office must place Pakistan as our number one foreign policy priority alongside our mission in Afghanistan. Almost one million British citizens of Pakistani origin live in Britain and every year many travel the thousands of miles between Pakistan and Britain to visit loved ones. As David Cameron pointed out in a speech he made in Islamabad in September this "fact alone mean that the futures of our two countries are intertwined."
If we fail Pakistan in its hour of need, Pakistan will surely fail us.