Hope… a lollipop we suck and lick until the hard candy gets crushed in our mouth. One such hope we remained deluded with was the ostensible effacement of ‘terrorists’ following the disturbingly atrocious 2014 Peshawar school massacre. Zarb-e-Azb was one such hope with which we continued to be extant for around two years. Amidst the calmness to which we all were witness, someone was awaiting the right time. It is difficult to authenticate the appropriateness of time and place, but the hidden elements chose to unveil themselves in the form of a suicide blast in Lahore when protestors were engaged in dissenting and police officials were busy in convincing the former to end the sit-in.
The mushroom smoke that resulted from this strike spread all over the country as the re-emerging clouds of terror. The ripple of this wave of insurgence fanned out to all provinces, from Mohmand Agency, Peshawar and Charsadda to Quetta and Sehwan, transforming living people into digits. The topographic points rocked by these blasts do not seem to align in any way; outside a provincial assembly (Lahore), near a flyover (Quetta), outside a local political administration office (Mohmand Agency), in the vicinity of a medical complex (Peshawar), at the gate of a district court (Charsadda) and in the bounds of a shrine (Sehwan). The only commonality that strings these events together is that of the juncture of their occurrences which cannot and should not be brushed aside and turned a blind eye to.
The tale of security issues in Pakistan does not begin from the 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team. A suicide blast outside the Sheraton Hotel in Karachi where New Zealand cricket team was staying made them wrap up their tour without playing the scheduled Test series with Pakistan in Pakistan; the incident claimed at least 15 lives. The Indian cricket team had chickened out after the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the replacement of which was the consent and subsequent arrival of the Sri Lankan cricket team. The details of the attack are not hidden from anyone; however, it is pertinent to mention here that the assailants gunned down six Pakistani police officers and two civilians. The incident marked the complete cessation of international cricket in Pakistan for a hefty six years. The only addition in the list of teams that have visited Pakistan since then is that of Zimbabwe which toured in 2015.
We were fortunate that the demons chose tranquillity over commotion and all went well. But fortuity is not always meant to be in our favour as is blatantly evident from the horrors unleashed in the third week of this month. The six aforementioned blasts decimated over a 100 people, including women and children. How deplorable is the fact that I had to use a calculator to determine the approximate sum of all the fatalities so as to accentuate its probable impact on Pakistan and its regional dynamics in the near future?
Nevertheless, the sun of 20 February did not set before showing a ray of hope to the woebegone and despondent citizens of grief-stricken Pakistan in the form of official announcement to hold Pakistan Super League (PSL)’s final in Lahore with or without international players. While some were lamenting the decision owing to the money that is going to be spent in providing additional fee and “presidential-level security” to the willing foreign cricketers, the lion’s share grinned from ear to ear with excitement of hosting our very own league on our soil in reality. The fact that our sentiments get easily associated even with an atom-size of fervent hope and auspices is an incontrovertible indicator of the desperate yearning of our masses for peace and festivity.
Perplexingly, some people took the matter to Facebook and Twitter and did not think once before equating to zero the emotions of people who were, in actuality, much more saddened by the death of several in Lahore blast than the probability of giving up the opportunity of holding PSL final in Lahore but could not keep themselves from showing their concern over the latter. The fault-finders articulated their censuring remarks in the following manner: “Thank you Lahore for showing your concern about the PSL final. Why should we care about the dead ones? If you want to whine then whine about the martyrs, not about a pompous ceremony.”
I want to ask just one question from all the disparagers: What could possibly be the aim of banned outfits behind executing the well-planned terror attacks all over Pakistan – to wipe out the entire population of Pakistan or to besmirch Pakistan’s image so as to scar its geostrategic importance and the closely-associated economic growth? The above-mentioned digits referring to the dead have undoubtedly added to the thousands of precious lives that we have lost over these years in countless terror attacks, but had the obliteration of Pakistani population been their sole purpose, it would have been achieved much earlier given the reportedly tremendous pool of labour and resources militant groups have. In my humble opinion, the real purpose in most of the cases is to sully this country’s reputation by reddening our face with our people’s blood. The very-much-possible link between these attacks and debatably worthwhile development of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor cannot be completely ruled out, but the synchroneity of PSL final’s schedule and these blasts makes a much more logical and unmistakeable connection.
As far as proclaiming the PSL final as a “pompous ceremony” is concerned, yes it is worth something to be excessively proud of! Have we disremembered the loss of at least $10.5 million that Pakistan suffered from upon losing the co-host status in 2011 Cricket World Cup? Have we consigned to oblivion the figure of $40 million that amounts to the combined loss of estimated revenues in year 2009-2010 alone? Putting it in simple words, are we totally unmindful of the revenue that is generated when a country gets to host an international event? This opportunity of welcoming players from all over the world would have paved the way for future prospects. Instead of distrusting, pondering over the coincidence of a VIP’s presence at the site of attack, and accusing an office-bearer of perpetrating it, we should consider the most likely involvement of non-state actors in barricading the country’s boundary.
Every earnest effort should be given as equal a chance as is given to every single suspicion and uncertainty. The cost of inviting Zimbabwean cricket team to Pakistan was not less than Rs50 million. Hosting the PSL final in Lahore might be much heavier on our pocket given the current security situation in the country. Despite anything to the contrary, in most of the cases, initial investments cost more than the running cost