Attack on Sri Lankan cricket team casts shadow on Pakistan's security situation

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Islamabad - At least seven persons including five policemen were killed and 19 others including seven Sri Lankan cricket players were injured in a terrorist attack in Pakistan on Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters in Islamabad at the Parliament House, the Minister of State for Interior Tasnim Ahmed Qureshi said enough security measures had been taken to safeguard the Sri Lankan team.

However, the policemen and the players were still attacked despite "foolproof security measures", shedding light on the poor security situation and casting shadow on the future of peace in the country despite a peace accord with militants in the northwest.

The Test Series between Sri Lanka and Pakistan were called off after the terrorist attack and analysts feared that no international event was likely to be held in Pakistan in the near future.

Mr Qureshi said the attack was the activity of anti-state element aimed at destabilising the peace process in the country.

By coincidence, two security men were killed and one injured in an ambush in Pakistan's restive Swat valley on Tuesday despite a peace accord with militants in the area.

The government termed the incident a violation of the peace accord because militants opened unprovoked fire at the security men.

At the same time, Sufi Muhammad, founding chief of a banned group Tehrik-e-Nifaz Shariat Muhammadi (TNSM) set a deadline of 15 March to the government to set up Islamic courts and to release Taliban prisoners as per the agreement between TNSM and North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

He also warned the peace accord would be ended if the government violated the deal, with a clear reference to the incident that some Taliban activists were arrested by the government recently.

According to the agreement between TNSM and NWFP government which was signed last month, Sharia, or Islamic law, would be enforced in Malakand division including the restive Swat valley, which was considered as a stronghold of Taliban.

In return, Mr Muhammad talked to the militants in Swat valley and helped them strike a deal with the government aimed at securing "permanent truce."

Some observers have pinned high hope on the peace accord between the government and the militants, saying that the practice can also be applied to other areas plagued by activities of militants.

However, the killing of the security men on Tuesday and the threat by Mr Muhammad have driven home that the peace accord is still fragile as the two sides can hardly find total understanding and trust.

Mr Qureshi said that the involvement of foreign elements could not be ruled out in the attack on Sri Lankan cricket team.

On Monday, at least four people were killed and four others injured in a suicide attack in southwestern Pakistan's Balochistan province.

Undoubtedly, the Pakistani government have to fight on quite a few fronts in their war against terrorism, in which different elements were involved.

The situation is likely to change as the US is shifting its focus from Iraq to Afghanistan. Surely Pakistan's northwestern areas bordering Afghanistan, which were deemed as hotbed for militants, will be taken into account in the new US strategy in the area.