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06 March 2009

What the Attacks in Lahore Mean

I first read about the attack on the bus carrying both match officials and the Sri Lankan cricket team on cricinfo.com. It is probably the website I spend the most time on due to the fact that cricket matches take a long time and cricinfo.com provides it's viewers with ball-by-ball updates of matches in progress. I therefore logged onto cricinfo to check the score of the Pakistan-Sri Lanka match on Tuesday, which should have been day three of this particular match.

To be honest, I thought I had opened the wrong web page. When I saw the news coverage of a terrorist attack, I though I had mistakenly opened cnn.com or another of the news sites I frequent. I had to double check the url of the page I had opened. Sadly, I was not mistaken. I had indeed opened cricinfo.com. I was at work and went downstairs to the office of the English subject coordinator, Will, who is English, and also a cricket fan. The initial reports were sketchy and since I was relying only on the internet for reports, I couldn't be sure of who was hurt, injured, or even dead. Unfortunately, too many people did lose their lives. We were both shocked.

It was not until I reached home in the afternoon and was able to turn on the television that I was able to procure the full story. What died that day was not just several drivers and Pakistani security personnel. Many other things perished as well.

First, Pakistani cricket is on life-support. Australia, West Indies, India, and South Africa have all refused to tour Pakistan in the past few years citing security concerns. Personally, I viewed this as a joke. Afterall, who would attack a bunch of innoculous foreign cricketers applying their craft in a country that is probably second only to India in terms of passionate cricket support? I criticized the cowardly acts of the cricket boards of all of these countries. I was wrong. Sri Lanka was not even supposed to be touring Pakistan. India was. They refused after the Mumbai terrorist attacks last year. This was the first test series Pakistan had played on home soil in 14 months. It will be the last for quite some time. Pakistan can now only hope to "host" home series in United Arab Emirates (which is great for me as I will be able to attend some matches in Abu Dhabi or Dubai) or England. Either way, this does not bode well for the game in Pakistan.

Secondly, Asian unity died. Cricket on the sub-continent is perhaps more of a unifying factor than any other single entity. In the midst of a violent and on-going civil war in Sri Lanka between the government and Tamil rebels, Tamils and Sinahlese both play side-by-side on the Sri Lankan cricket team. Muttiah Muralitharan is Tamil, yet is basically the face of the Sri Lankan team and perhaps one of the greatest bowlers of all time. In Pakistan, Muslims, Christians, and Hindus all play cricket for the national team. Same goes for India with Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs. I recently asked an Indian driver here, who is Muslim, who he roots for: India or Pakistan. His answer was unequivocal: India. In short, passion for cricket takes precedence over other loyalties. If you are a group of religious fanatics, hellbent on destroying vestiges of secularity within a society, destroying cricket in the sub-continent would be a good start. The first step towards the destruction of Pakistani cricket was achieved this week.

Thirdly, innocence about sport was lost. Since the 1972 Munich Olympics, there have been few incidents involving terrorist activities at sporting venues. Billions have been spent procuring the safety of matches for football, rugby, cricket, and Olympic venues. This, coupled with the fact that many try to make sport out to be apolitical has succeeded in luring us into a false sense of security. I chided the above mentioned countries for not touring Pakistan. No more. The fact that innocent cricket players (who were actually doing Pakistan a favour by standing in for their more fancied Indian rivals) were targeted is sickening. Although several players were hurt, one can only be thankful that these attackers were rather amateurish and missed the bus with their rocket launcher and that the bus driver managed to speed over the grenade thrown before it exploded. Otherwise, players themselves would have died rather than been injured.

Lastly, the Pakistani government lost face. The government had guaranteed the safety of the Sri Lankan team. Obviously, the government does not have it within its grasp to keep their word. This is problematic for a fledgling government in a what is increasingly viewed as a failed state. If one cannot protect foreign cricketers, how can security for anyone be offered with any real guarantee?

I just hope that the attacks in Lahore do not inextricably link politics with sport. This seems to be happening in the aftermath and immediate hand-wringing that is taking place. I also hope that the Pakistanis themselves are irate enough about the potential destruction of their national pasttime that they take exception and force the various parties to sit down and negotiate a peaceful solution to the problems plauging the country. Lastly, I hope that other cricket playing nations stand by the Pakistani Cricket Board and try to assist them financially by staging neutral venue matches. For the good of the game, for the good of peace on the sub-continent, and for the good of global sport, these hopes need to become a reality so that the tragedy of Lahore is not repeated and no sporting team suffers the horror of Israeli athletes in Munich or Pakistani cricketers in Lahore.

Nomadic Richard

1 comment:

ckay said...

I can only imagine the impact of the attack on the hearts of ardent Pakistan cricket funs. Its right in front of their eyes plus those of the entire world to see fact that their Govt has failed in matters security. Things can only get worse as this serves as a major victory for the terrorists and the militants or so i think. Gunmen still at large? C'mon now!