The new wave of violence unleased across northern Pakistan, from FATA to KP to Lahore, over past few days, reminds us, the Pakistanis, once again that the war against foreign-backed terrorism, though making strides, is far from won. We as a nation, are in for a long long war against this peculiar facet of the enemy.
Since the news of the sad incident of Lahore’s Charring Cross broke on national media on the evening of February 13, an argument dominating the debate is that this is an attempt to sabotage the plans for Pakistan Super League (PSL) final, to be held in Lahore’s Qaddafi stadium, on March 7. It is understandable that any incident of such nature will undoubtedly create fears among the foreign players, expected to play in this major sporting event. Resultantly, persuading them to still come to the city and play here would become rather challenging.
Yet, what almost all the analysts are missing is the linkage of this incident – and at a broader level what seems to be a kind of revival of targeted incidents of such nature in several parts of the country over past few weeks – with another major regional event coming in the days ahead. It is the Summit of the leaders of Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), with much larger diplomatic and strategic relevance.
The Summit is scheduled for March 1, in Islamabad. It would by no means be baseless to contemplate that the powers and actors that wished to, and were successful in, blocking the SAARC Summit scheduled for November 2016 from happening in Islamabad, would be trying their utmost to create hurdles in the way of ECO Summit. The design seems to be to create, rather perpetuate, the image of Pakistan as an unsafe place for such major intergovernmental happenings.
One more incident of this nature – God forbid, let alone one in or around Islamabad – may easily provide a pretext to a member country for declaring it not so favorable a time for such a Summit. And there is no doubt that some may in fact be looking for such an opportunity.
This sensitivity burdens the security, intelligence and law-enforcing edifice of the nation with a heavy encumbrance to ensure – to the best extent possible – that no such incident is repeated before the Summit takes place, safely and successfully, as scheduled. And of course our duty and resolve is not limited to the time only before this Summit. More important is to make these regional partners realize that this is not a war of any one of us alone, we all have to fight it together, and dragging our feet from joining hands with each other and blame games do not help.
At diplomatic level, our Foreign Office and foreign policy makers need to devise a proactive approach to reach out to the leadership and counterpart institutions in the member countries, to keep the plans intact assuring them of highest possible levels of safety and protection.
The point is not to deny that PSL indeed is among the top targets. But let us not lose sight of the broader picture. The designs are wider than PSL alone.