EDITORIAL: Terrorism and the World Cup - Saturday, March 26, 2011

Source : http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\03\26\story_26-3-2011_pg3_1

According to Interpol chief Ronald Noble, a terror plot has been foiled with the help of Pakistan. The target was the ongoing Cricket World Cup 2011. “Last week, through the cooperation from Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, we were able to identify, locate and arrest a terrorist, who had left Karachi on his way to the Maldives with criminal intentions,” said Mr Noble. He was briefing reporters in Islamabad alongside Interior Minister Rehman Malik. “Thanks to the cooperation of your country [Pakistan] and other countries, we were able to make sure that the World Cup remains safe,” assured the Interpol chief.

This terror plot is definitely worrying but perhaps not surprising. Global terrorist networks now seek to use any opportunity to wreak havoc. Sporting events, especially one as huge as the Cricket World Cup, seem like ideal targets given the fact the whole cricketing world’s eyes are on this tournament. Imagine the destruction if a terror attack does take place at a World Cup match. Usually stadiums are packed to their full capacity. Such an attack could lead to hundreds of deaths not to talk about shattering the spirit of the sporting event. A terror attack against the visiting Sri Lankan team took place in Pakistan in March 2009. It was a miracle that none of the Sri Lankan cricketers were badly injured and virtually escaped death. Ever since that unfortunate incident, international cricket has come to an end in Pakistan. It was for this reason that Pakistan could not co-host this year’s World Cup. It is highly unfortunate that sports, which serve as relief from social, personal and professional tensions for the spectators and bring them together in support of their respective teams, are now being targeted by terrorists.

The issue of terrorism cannot be addressed without pre-emptive measures. Fortunately, this time around the Interpol has caught a terrorist with the help of Pakistan and other countries but the authorities should not rest sanguine. There are many important matches in the upcoming days, especially the semi-final between India and Pakistan on March 30. The match will take place in India and if God forbid, any security lapse takes place that day, the consequences for both neighbouring countries will be immense. After the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, relations between the two sides soured. Now that there has been a resumption of talks between the two sides after a long time post-26/11, the terrorists must be waiting for another opportune moment to strike again. Security should be beefed up in Mohali, more so than planned previously, especially since Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh has graciously invited President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to watch the match in Mohali. According to our High Commissioner in New Delhi, Mr Shahid Malik, the prime minister has accepted the invitation. For this reason, and in the event that Pakistan wins the semi-final, the Pakistan cricket team and Pakistani spectators at the match must be given foolproof security. The Shiv Sena has already warned the Pakistani team against playing the final in Mumbai on April 2. These threats should be taken seriously. Any untoward incident in India could lead to grave consequences for both sides on the eve of the resumption of the stalled dialogue. Cricket diplomacy should remain a force for good, and the terrorists must not be allowed to derail the signs of the two countries once again reaching out to each other after a long hiatus.

It is hoped that the rest of the World Cup matches will take place as peacefully as they have till now. The game of cricket lifts the spirit of all cricketing nations. Sullying the image of sports through terror attacks shows us that the terrorists are nobody’s friends. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: Bloodshed in Afghanistan

“I lost my moral compass,” said 23-year old US Army Specialist Jeremy Morlock when he apologised for killing unarmed Afghan civilians in cold blood last year. Morlock is the first of five US soldiers charged with this crime. He got 24 years in prison after his confession. The US has done well to pursue this case and convict Morlock. It is no secret that war is inherently cruel. Even in conventional wars between states, when the opposing armies face each other in the field, cruelty and aberration from the rules of engagement are not unheard of. In civil wars or foreign colonial/imperialist wars, such tendencies exacerbate. There are many reasons for this but one of the most important reasons is frustration against the guerrillas. The strategic plank of guerrilla warfare is that it is a war of attrition meant to wear down the opposing army politically, militarily and psychologically. The guerrillas whittle away at the enemy until either the political will of the opposition evaporates or the guerrillas themselves become so strong as to take on the enemy. This war of attrition increases the frustration levels in the ranks of conventional soldiers. And this is exactly what has happened to the US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

History is full of such incidents of deviation from discipline despite oft-repeated orders from the top command forbidding it. It should not come as a surprise that this is happening in Afghanistan. Historically, American soldiers have treated enemy combatants in such wars as sub-human and this provides a twisted justification for any sort of treatment that is meted out to them. After 9/11, the UN mandated the intervention in Afghanistan but the jury is still out on whether it was a good idea or not. The Afghans have seen bloodshed for the past four decades and want to end it. The US should hasten the withdrawal of foreign troops and let the Afghans agree on a compact that allows rivals to coexist. What is alarming is that the US now plans on setting up permanent bases in Afghanistan in order to ensure that another 9/11 is not planned from Afghan soil. Of course there is no guarantee that such planning cannot take place elsewhere. The Afghans have already been punished enough for 9/11 even though al Qaeda was hardly their representative. All regional and global actors should now have mercy on that ruined country and come to some agreement that there will be no more outside interference and occupation. Once these issues are rolled back, the Afghans must be allowed to settle their own destiny. *

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