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Don’t make Pakistan’s enemies happy

There are some pundits in this country waxing eloquent on the unfortunate incident in Lahore on Tuesday. They demand to know why our cricketers were sent to Pakistan, which they say is not a safe place––as if Sri Lanka were! Yes, Pakistan is experiencing some problems and it may not be the ideal place for us to play cricket at this moment. Some cricket playing nations refused to send their players there in view of security threats.

It is natural that a country in crisis seeks to repair its international image by preventing the cancellation of mega sports events which attract global media attention. There had been no previous attacks on or threats to cricketers in cricket crazy Pakistan, and as such the organisers of the match series at issue were confident that everything would go as planned, though some countries refused to play there for security reasons.

Sri Lanka has firsthand experience of such rebuff and knows how hurtful it is to be questioned on her ability to provide security to visiting VIPs. Sri Lanka, it may be recalled, took umbrage as India chose to dip its toe and called for special security arrangements to protect Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, when he attended last year’s SAARC conference in Colombo. Sri Lanka has also organised many events aimed at repairing its image as a safe tourist and investment destination with the assistance of her friends.

In 1996, as we said in these columns yesterday, several cricket playing nations did not want to play in Sri Lanka in view of terrorist threats. Their decision smacked of a calculated move to project this country as a very dangerous place and isolate it internationally. But, Pakistan and India came here and demonstrated to the world that the situation was not so bad as it was made out to be. A friend in need, it is said, is a friend indeed.

So, it was Sri Lanka's turn to stand by her all-weather friend, Pakistan, when she was invited to play cricket on the latter's soil. And she did. Unfortunately, the least expected happened and now everybody is wise after the event.

It is being claimed in some quarters that the Sri Lankan team had not been provided with adequate security. What is 'adequate security'? No security is adequate where terrorism is concerned. In a world where the Pentagon has come under a terror attack and well protected world leaders have perished at the hands of terrorists, there is always an element of risk in any kind of security arrangement.

In the late 1980s, in this country Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had a close shave when a naval rating assaulted him with a rifle butt at a guard of honour. We have lost a President, many military leaders including a Navy commander and a lot of political leaders in terrorist attacks. The present Army Commander was targeted by a suicide bomber inside the Army Headquarters!

Therefore, can we afford to complain about security arrangements in other countries?

Most of all, when its High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Bashir Wali Mohammed came under a terrorist attack in Colombo in 2007, Pakistan did not fault Sri Lanka. Instead, it gave an assurance that nothing would affect Pakistan-Sri Lanka relations. That is how friends should handle difficult situations!

Nothing is so certain as the unexpected, where VIP security is concerned. Even if there had been a security blanket in Lahore on Tuesday, terrorists would still have struck. They are so fiendishly motivated and fanatically determined to cause bloodletting. There is hardly anything that a bunch of indoctrinated lunatics with a death wish is not capable of. Hence, the need for the world to unite and make a collective effort to eliminate global terrorism root and branch.

Our cricketers are precious to us and we heaved a sigh of relief when they escaped death and returned home safely. Now that the boys are back, we must put the unfortunate Lahore episode behind us. And the bankrupt political windbags in this country must stop making funny noises and embarrassing a friendly nation still reeling from Tuesday's terror strike.

It is thanks to friends like Pakistan that Sri Lanka remains undivided. But for Pakistan's unstinted support for Sri Lanka's war on terror, perhaps there would have been no country for Mahela and others to represent in international cricket. Several were the occasions when Pakistan was so generous as to part with even the ammunition stocks reserved for its use to ensure that Sri Lanka's war would go on.

When the LTTE launched its much hyped Unceasing Wave in 1999, destroyed many military camps with the help of its newly acquired MBRLs in the North and reached the outskirts of Jaffna, where tens of thousands of troops were trapped, it was Pakistan which answered Sri Lanka's desperate call for military assistance.

A team of army officers was rushed to Pakistan immediately and given a hurried training to handle MBRLs. And the much needed big guns were airlifted to Jaffna within days to put the brakes on the LTTE onslaught. Thus, Sri Lanka, which had been even considering a large scale troop evacuation from Jaffna, managed to avoid disaster.

No sooner had the Sri Lankan team been attacked than a sinister campaign was launched to discredit Pakistan, if some cynical remarks by certain regional and international TV stations were any indication. Let no contribution be made to that deplorable move.

Sri Lanka can rest assured that Pakistan will investigate the incident thoroughly and do its damnedest to bring the terrorists concerned to book. So, there is no need for pundits amongst us to tell Pakistan what to do.

That is the best way they can show their gratitude, if any, to a friendly nation in crisis struggling to avoid an adverse propaganda onslaught.

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