Nations are sometimes faced with situations which pose and existentialist threat to the state, like the phenomenon of terrorism in Pakistan. These situations require national unity; cohesiveness, resilience, determination and a demonstrative resolve to thwart the designs of the evil forces at any cost. That resolve has surely been demonstrated by the state of Pakistan and the Pakistani nation with the launch of operation Zarb-e-Azb in the backdrop of the terrorist attack at Karachi airport, initiation of the NAP in the wake of the APS mayhem and now with the commencement of operation Raddul Fasad following the spate of terrorist attacks in Lahore, Sehwan Sharif and other parts of the country.
These responses sent a loud and clear message to the perpetrators of the dastardly acts of terrorism that their inhuman ploys could not dent the morale of the nation, the government, the security forces and the law enforcing agencies, who with every terrorist attack felt more determined than ever before to eliminate the scourge of terrorism. When the terrorists struck at Lahore it was widely believed that the attack was meant to sabotage the holding of the PSL Final at Lahore and to prevent the return of international cricket to Pakistan. The incident certainly posed a dilemma for the government, particularly the Punjab government and the security agencies. However after a flurry of huddles at the highest level, consultations with the intelligence outfits and a categorical assurance by the COAS to provide fool proof security at the venue and to the participating foreign players, it was decided to hold the final at its designated venue, notwithstanding criticism by certain quarters who felt that it was a very risky proposition.
It was rightly felt that cancelling the holding of the final at Lahore would have been interpreted as a success for the terrorists and the inability of the security agencies to take up the challenge. Ostensibly the decision to hold the final as scheduled had three objectives. One was to convey it to the terrorists, their mentors, sponsors and supporters that they had failed to create or foist a situation that would have led to the cancellation of the final and also to make an unequivocal statement that the government and its security agencies were fully capable of and prepared to thwart their designs and would not be cowed down by such antics. The second was of course to convey to the cricket playing countries and the world at large that normalcy was fast returning to Pakistan, terrorism notwithstanding the sporadic incidents had been contained and that the government could provide adequate security to the visiting teams to allay the fears about their safety.
The third and probably the most important objective was to use the game of cricket to consolidate national unity and integration at a time when it was most needed. People of Pakistan love the game of cricket and have emotional attachment with the sport. Needless to emphasise that sports are a proven catalyst for transformation of a society and national integration that goes beyond cultural and ethnic considerations. They also inculcate a sense of discipline in the nation. That effect was quite visible before and during the match. The media, particularly the electronic channels deserve unqualified accolades in creating the required hype and engaging the entire nation in the cricket fever. The event also brought lot of enjoyment and happiness for the people of Pakistan.
All the three objectives have been realised which by any standards is an enviable achievement in the given circumstances. The credit for this honestly goes to the Federal and provincial government of Punjab and our security and law enforcement agencies who made the event possible. Apart from political and security considerations one thing is certain that the successful holding of the PSL final is surely a first credible step towards the return of international cricket to Pakistan notwithstanding the fact that PSL was purely a Pakistani undertaking and the number of foreign players participating in the final was not as large as one would have desired. Reportedly the ICC has promised to send a world eleven to Pakistan in November this year, which can rightly be construed as the immediate dividend of the PSL Final. The full fledged return of international cricket to Pakistan may take some time though.
Much will depend on the security situation in the country in the future because the kind of security that was provided for the PSL final is not possible for all the matches that the touring teams will have to play at different venues. We need to create an overall environment of peace and security in the country so that the foreign teams have no reservations or fears to come to Pakistan.
The war against terrorism is very much our own war and we have to win it for our own sake to profess our credentials as a true crusader against the menace of terrorism to the world community as well as to portray Pakistan as a peaceful destination for all the foreign visitors including sports contingents and teams coming the Pakistan to participate in the sports events, including cricket.
Going by the emerging portents and the successes achieved by our armed forces, intelligence and law enforcing agencies against the terrorist outfits and the way the operation Raddul Fasad is being carried out throughout the length and breadth of the country, it can be safely inferred that the fight against the terrorists has entered the final stage and it would undoubtedly be won by the state of Pakistan, the government, security and law enforcing agencies. The day is not far off when complete normalcy will return to Pakistan provided the civilian government and the establishment continue to show oneness of purpose as is evident now and the political forces instead of pursuing their own narrow ends unquestioningly throw their weight behind the efforts to quell terrorism and refrain from promoting or fanning fissiparous and divisive tendencies or notions like the issue of profiling of Pashtuns in Punjab. The issue was echoed in the KPK assembly and the Senate of Pakistan. It is surely the wrong perception. The crack-down against the terrorist in Punjab under operation Raddul Fasad is certainly not against a particular community or ethnic group. The law enforcing agencies are taking action against terrorists and their supporters irrespective of their race and ethnicity. A terrorist is a terrorist and needs to be apprehended or eliminated for taking up arms against the state. Our politicians need to understand that and learn to place the national interests over and above their narrow political gains.