Just two weeks ago I had read an article by Brian M. Downin, ‘Losing the game: Pakistan on the brink’. It had listed all the travails of this nation, self-inflicted or otherwise, and the picture the author had painted was grim to say the least. At that time I had wondered if this was not over pessimism. After all a lot of countries go through periods of turmoil but very few crumble under the weight of their problems.
Now, after this morning’s attacks on the Sri Lankan cricket team, that had braved the odds to agree to play in the country where no one else wanted to play, I am not too sure. It is indeed beginning to look as though Pakistan might actually go under if the current state of affairs continues unchecked. With this attack in the heart of Lahore, on a visiting sports team, there is a stark change in terminology. All over the world the experts and ordinary people alike are now not debating whether Pakistan is on the brink but are talking instead of the ‘the end game’.
So where exactly does our nuclear armed neighbor stand at this point in their 61 year history? There are articulate arguers are on both side of the debate. While the impulse to talk of Pakistan as a nation going down the drain is stronger at the moment there are those too who are trying to talk of this Lahore incident as just one unfortunate incident. They draw comparisons with the train attacks in Madrid, the Mumbai attacks, the blasts that have occurred in Turkey, Egypt and many other countries in the recent years. People did not give up on these nations and did not stop visiting them. This argument is simplistic in the extreme as this is not one isolated incident for Pakistan.
Apart from the attacks like the Marriot hotel blasts and the notorious Taliban grip on Swat valley (and all the misery it entails for the population there) Pakistan has been suffering from almost a never ending series of attacks. There have been suicide bombings, indiscriminate firing, and grenade attacks on funerals, schools, high courts and market places. The difference is that the world does not take notice when 8-10 Pakistanis get killed but when outsiders or high profile people and places get attacked then the incidents get world wide coverage.
It is precisely for this reason that this time the terrorists have chosen to attack the Sri Lankan team whose very visit, in adverse circumstances, was supposed to make the point that Pakistan was not the wild, west and people could and should visit it. Now by attacking that very team the terrorists have upturned that notion and declared loud and clear that they can and will attack, at will, wherever whichever target they choose to. They have got the world’s attention alright!
Where Pakistan goes from here is hard to predict. The usual list of LeT, Taliban, Al- Qaeda, ISI, the army and ‘foreign hands’ has been aired by all but who is to say who on that list is the ring leader and who are its willing followers? Who is the horse and who the charioteer? Does the army drive the Islamic militants or is it now the other way round. And what is the position and status of the young civilian government in the conundrum that now passes for a Pakistani state?
Pakistan indeed now stands at the proverbial fork in the road. Which way it chooses to go will determine whether it survives or goes under. One road is the old one of denial, obfuscation and duplicity that Pakistan has tread for almost its entire existence. The other one is the unfamiliar one of acknowledging that the menace that has spread through out the country is largely of its own making and it must denounce and fight it not to win accolades from the rest of the world but simply to ensure that Pakistan has some chance at a better future.
While for the foreseeable future Pakistan will be a sort of international pariah, especially where sports of any sort are concerned, in the longer run it can win its way back into the community of world nations by setting its house in order. The rest of the world can play a constructive role in this by not raising the chorus of ‘we told you so’ and by finding ways to support those within Pakistan who seek to liberate their nation from the menace of terrorism.
P.S: While the Pakistani government through various spokespeople has started parroting the line about a ‘foriegn hand’ the media has come out and declared this a case of home grown terrorism.Many ordinary people are also saying this in the Pakistani blogosphere.
Editorial from Dawn (Pakistani English Daily) :www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/Dawn%20Content%20Library/dawn/news/pakistan/tragedy+in+lahore
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