Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Liberty hero By Masood Sharif Khan Khattak - Former Director General Intelligence Bureau

Mr Masood Sharif Khan Khattak, Former Director General of The Intelligence Bureau, Government of Pakistan

The Liberty hero By Masood Sharif Khan Khattak Dated Saturday, March 07, 2009

The fallout of the Lahore attack will be massive. On Jan 22, the additional inspector general of police heading the Crime Investigating Department (CID) of Punjab had warned the authorities concerned of the likelihood of what eventuality did unfold on March 3. The warning was ignored for 37 days. Sadly, Pakistan will pay the price for the negligence of individuals.

The CID had clearly pointed out that RAW agents were planning to attack the Sri Lankan cricketers either at the hotel or between the hotel and the stadium. The CID Punjab, the brave policemen who were killed and the driver of the bus carrying the Sri Lankans deserve recognition from the state of Pakistan. The bus driver, Meher Muhammad Khalil, displayed extraordinary courage. He not only saved the lives of the Sri Lankan cricketers but also prevented the situation from becoming even grimmer than it did. No gallantry award would be too high for Mr Khalil because he single-handedly saved the country from immense shame.

It is inconceivable that so many attackers put themselves at risk without a big goal. The internal elements involved in the whole process may, or may not, have known the bigger goals of the actual architects of the attack.

Mr Khalil's courageous action left the attackers with no option but to disengage and escape. If he had not driven the cricketers to safety the attackers would have killed some of the Sri Lankans and taken the rest hostage in a nearby building. The following long ordeal of negotiations would have been shown on television screens across the world for days. The world would have come down hard on Pakistan. Some demands related to the adverse military situation that the Tamil Tigers face could have then been made in order to win some relief for the cornered insurgents in Sri Lanka.

Few people would doubt that India is trying its best to convince world powers that Pakistan is an irresponsible state and that it is India that should become the free world's policeman in this region. It is a well-known fact that India has been pressing Sri Lanka for a ceasefire with the cornered and almost defeated Tamil Tigers, which Sri Lanka has refused to do. It is no secret that in the wake of the Mumbai incident India had pressured Sri Lanka against sending its cricketers to Pakistan, considering Sri Lanka's defiance of the pressure as an affront to Indian hegemony. Intelligence agencies always act in pursuance of the domestic and foreign policy objectives of their states. RAW is no exception. In this case footprints from the Liberty Roundabout in Lahore lead straight to the headquarters of RAW in Delhi.

I salute Sri Lanka with all the gratitude of the Pakistani nation for having stood with Pakistan. During the 1971 crisis, that country (then Ceylon) allowed Pakistani aircraft flying to East Pakistan to land and refuel at Colombo. That was a time when Pakistan and India were involved in an undeclared war, and Pakistan was fighting a losing battle in East Pakistan, during India's ban on overflights by Pakistani aircraft over Indian territory. The brave Sri Lankans stood by Pakistan in its grimmest hour.

The Sri Lankans came here to play cricket when India did not want them to do so. Immediately after the Lahore ambush the Sri Lankans displayed their national honour once again. Remaining composed they did not blame the Pakistani authorities when they had all the right to do so. Not only that, the distinctly articulate foreign minister of Sri Lanka was the graceful image of an official of an honourable nation even when under attack. The Sri Lankans have already said that they will come to play cricket in Pakistan once again soon. This is the way terrorism needs to be defeated. Sri Lanka has shown the way to the world. I salute you, Sri Lanka, and I am sure so does all of Pakistan, for having stood by this country when the whole world has turned its back on us. Long live, Sri Lanka! We Pakistanis are proud of you and value your friendship beyond words.

The writer is former director general of the Intelligence Bureau and former vice president of the PPP Parliamentarians.

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