Yet another grotesque terror attack once again struck Pakistan on Monday, this time threatening to tear humanity apart in the heart of Lahore. The target and even the place chosen by the new extremist faction, Jamat-ul-Ahrar, invigorated to establish itself as the most aggressive and violent of the militant outfits, seems to have been chosen to maximise their damage. As of now, at least 13 people have been killed whilst an additional 85 were injured in the attack outside the Punjab Assembly.
Every single terrorist incident is equally horror-filled and heart-wrenching since the loss of every precious human life should be necessarily mourned. However, the fact that the attacker ripped through such a large number of protesting chemists in addition to targeting senior police officers narrates an even darkening tale of our long struggle against extremism. The horrifying cries of the wounded, the trauma of those braving the losses of their loved ones, and the general panic and despair that seems to have engulfed the entire city clearly signify a bloody reminder of our constant danger. In a manner similar to the atrocious carnage that a suicide bomber of the same organisation had left behind in the city’s most popular park last year — wreaking havoc on hundreds of families — this attack appears to send a clear message of our vulnerability to policymakers. The same group also attacked a lawyer’s rally in Quetta last year; killing more than 70 people. A suicide blast outside a church in Lahore claimed 15 lives in 2015 while an attack at a police station in the same city killed as many as seven officers a year earlier. May it be families walking down the streets in Anarkali, passengers awaiting their trains on various platforms in the railway station or even protestors mourning at the Muharram procession, Lahore has long borne the brunt of these shameless terrorist outfits that appear hell-bent on taking as many human lives as possible only to further their yet unclear designs.
Amid the unrelenting yet psychotic passion of these militant bodies, the state of our own defences, nonetheless, still remains unaddressed. While a significant connection between the blast and the imminent Pakistan Super League (PSL) tournament final, scheduled to be held in Lahore, is already making rounds on many television talk shows, calls of undermining the mega investment planned under the umbrella of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor are also being heard. Those voicing concerns about the future of the tournament do hold substantial ground. Only last year’s bombing in the same city was quoted by the Afghanistan cricket team as its board cancelled its proposed April tour of Pakistan. The security concern had also set forth the cancellation of a series between the women cricket teams of Pakistan and Kenya, which was to be organised in home grounds last year. In the wake of the incessant lack of development opportunities back home braved by the country’s national team ever since a 2009 militant attack on Sri Lankan cricket team on their way to a match in Qaddafi Stadium, all fears of cricket aficionados seem justified. After all, the sporting isolation that had ensued as a result of these unfortunate security lapses still manages to hamper the progress of national cricketers.
As the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has rightly reiterated, an unwavering resolve is now needed, more than ever, to tackle “this cancer (to) avenge those who have laid down their lives for us.” Gone are the days when the country’s leadership could get away with simply reassuring us of the majestic might and determination of our armed forces. Every militant stronghold obscured in the plains of Punjab requires our immediate attention. A collaboration between the civilian and military leadership — the likes of which have already achieved significant success during Operation Zarb-e-Azb and the Karachi Operation — should be initiated to act against the looming militancy problem in the province. It is hoped that the leadership would act quickly so that such tragic events are no longer allowed to disrupt the social fabric, and, in this case, shatter the hopes of millions pining upon the revival of international cricket in home grounds.