I woke up this morning to the terrible news that a bus taking the Sri Lankan cricket team to the ground for their game against Pakistan had been attacked by well-armed terrorists. Thankfully none of the team is seriously injured, though Thilan Samaraweera and Tharanga Paravitarana have been taken to hospital with shrapnel wounds to the thigh and chest respectively (see CricInfo). However, five Pakistani policemen who were part of the security team for the cricketers died protecting their charges. The Sri Lankan team was only in Pakistan because both Australia and India had declined offers to tour, claiming the country was “too dangerous”.
For the benefit of those of you in non-cricket-playing countries who may not be familiar with the politics, this appears to have been nothing to do with the Sri Lankans per se. Indeed, as Sanath Jayasuriya has been quoted in The Guardian, in all the years of conflict between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers, cricketers have never been attacked. Nor is this an Islam v Secular issue. The Pakistani team and government include many devout Muslims all of whom are cricket lovers as well. The Pakistani High Commissioner to the UK, speaking on Sky News this morning, talked about extremists who believe that cricket is un-Islamic: that is, he was talking about fundamentalists.
If you are looking for an analogy, the best one I can think of is to imagine what would happen if a bunch of well-armed Christian fundamentalists attacked a bus taking the Washington Redskins to a game against the Dallas Cowboys, complaining that playing football on a Sunday was sinful.
Of course there is more to it than that. There is a whole pile of politics involved, including the war in Afghanistan. Tariq Ali takes a look at the issues in The Guardian. But the core issue here is that this is a terrorist attack that will outrage ordinary Pakistanis in a way that attacks on Western tourists in India, or support for the Taleban, will not. As Alex Massie says in The Spectator, “the real intended victim is Pakistan itself.” And because of that I hope that we will discover that this time the terrorists have shot themselves in the foot.