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March 06, 2009

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Eric: Not that it makes a lot (if any) difference in the significance of your (and Coll's) pieces, but IS there - yet - any established connection between the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team and "jihadists"? It's a good guess that there is, but AFAICT, no one seems to have any idea yet as to the precise identity of the Lahore attackers.

Well, the Pakistani government is now trying to claim that the attackers were Indian agents (ha!), but all signs point to jihadists.

Same MO.

Still, you are right to point out that we don't know yet.

Why would jhadists attack the Sri Lankan cricket team, though? I'm not aware of any ongoing Islamic/Sri Lankan controversy . . .

Unless the ultimate target was the legitimacy of the Pakistani government. Interesting question though rea. I'll poke around and see if I can come up with something.

Latest from the Christian Science Monitor:

Media reports in Pakistan are suggesting the involvement of banned Islamic group Lashkar-e-Taiba in Tuesday’s attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team – the same group suspected of having a hand in last November’s terrorist attacks in Mumbai – while Pakistan’s interior minister said Friday an official probe did not find evidence of “religious elements” in the attack.

Dawn, an English-language daily in Pakistan, reports that preliminary investigations suggest that “a group of headstrong Lashkar activists, who went underground and remained in hiding in Rawalpindi after the crackdown on Lashkar and Jamaatud Dawa in December, had acted on their own and carried out the attack.”

The paper adds that investigating officials have ruled out the involvement of Indian spy agency RAW or the Tamil Tigers (LTTE). But Friday, Geo Television Network of Pakistan quoted Mr. Malik as saying “we have not found any leads suggesting the involvement of any religious elements.” He also said he could not rule out a “foreign hand” in the attack, and refused to divulge any details of the probe.

http://features.csmonitor.com/globalnews/2009/03/06/lashkar-e-taiba-linked-to-cricket-team-attack-in-pakistan/

"I'm not aware of any ongoing Islamic/Sri Lankan controversy"

There really isn't. But there is a conflict between Islamic radicals and the modern world. The Sr Linka cricket team represents the modern world, so they are a target. They are a pretty good team when it comes to One Day Cricket. They have some good bowlers. They can't really handle a test match, but they are still a legitimate team. As such, they represent the modern world to Pakistanis. These Islamists would rather have taken out the Australian team, but Australia isn't likely to play there any time soon. The Australians are the best in the world, and everyone knows it. They don't need to play joker teams like Pakistan.

And another thing, it's time for Rahul Dravid to retire. He was a really awesome player when he was younger, but it's time to hang up the bat. The Indian team is finally becoming the force they always should have been. And they have the talent to be successful without Dravid. This is the perfect time for Dravid to bow out gracefully. He won't be remembered like Shane Warn, but nobody else ever will be. But we can remember him as the great player he was.

"Shane Warn"

That should be Shane Warne. Damn my sticky keyboard.

Islamists don't have a beef with Sri Lanka per se. But they do have a beef, if you'll pardon the expression, with Hindus and Buddhists, which are the two primary religions in Sri Lanka. The attack on the Sri Lankan team did prompt me to question Fareed Zakaria's distinction between militant Islamic radicals and Islamic fundamentalists in Pakistan. If you're fed a steady diet of incendiary rhetoric about unbelievers, wouldn't you have less qualms about hurting a team from India or Sri Lanka?

But tobie, the people that conducted the attack were militant Islamic radicals, not garden variety Islamic fundamentalists in Pakistan.

Why would such an event cause you to question the wisdom of distinguishing between the two?

Steve Coll's article is very, very good, imho. And I know I've said this before, but: I have never met anyone, in Pakistan, who has a problem with India. This was of course not true earlier, when a lot more people had first-hand recollections of partition.

Just finished Coll's book on the Bin Ladens, and it was rather impressive.

Although it's almost sacreligious to say given my foreign policy focus, I haven't read Ghost Wars although I've only heard praise for it from people whose opinions I respect.

@rea and others: It looked to me very much as if the attack were against the Pakistani police more than against the Sri Lanka cricket team. Eight policemen were killed, and the cricketers were injured more or less as collateral damage. My thought was that this appeared to the attackers as a high-publicity opportunity to go after security and police (as in the Mumbai attacks).

The article makes clear that a growing faction of Pakistani leaders, including military leaders, are beginning to realize that their own coddling of jihadists and other extremist groups as proxies to use to harrass India is becoming more of a liability than an asset - a policy that has long outlived its utility.

They're JUST NOW starting to realize this?!? Dude.

What I thought was interesting was Musharraf, who was on a clip I saw at CNN complaining that the police/troops protecting the Sri Lankan team were incompetent. The comments were in English, so I wonder if they were for foreign/elite consumption, but there seemed to be some appeal to the professionalism of the military. Given that he is angling for a return to politics, it will be interesting to watch.

PS what up, JM?

But, Eric, why do you think they attacked the Sri Lankan team at all? Militants aren't fighting Sri Lanka over Kashmir. The Sri Lankan team was a suitable target from the point of view of the militants because it is composed of Hindus and Buddhists, i.e., infidels or unbelievers. Here's where the line between fundamentalism and Islamic militancy in Pakistan gets blurred.

I'm not saying this is the attitude of all Pakistanis or religious Pakistanis or cricket-loving Pakistanis. But it is the attitude of fundamentalists and Islamic militants alike vis-a-vis Hinduism.

You know, it's possible that they had the event targeted when it was Indians and when they cancelled and the Sri Lankans stepped up, they didn't want their planning to go to waste. We've got a cricket fan here (welcome fostert), maybe he might know the timeline, but I thought that the match was scheduled before the Mumbai attack and India cancelled.

But it is the attitude of fundamentalists and Islamic militants alike vis-a-vis Hinduism.

But Tobie, many (if not most) Christian fundamentalists believe that Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists are infidels or unbelievers.

Like most Christian fundamentalists, however, most Islamic fundamentalists don't approve of committing terrorist attacks against civilians such as these. Only the ones that support violent jihad do.

That's kind of an important distinction, even if they share an underlying belief that their particular group is saved and all others damned.

That sort of thing goes hand in hand with most religious doctrine.

What Fareed was saying is, do we want to make war on peoples/nations because they espouse Islamic fundamentalism - even in its more extreme manifestations if it is inwardly directed and not focused on global jihad against us? I think not.

I don't see how this attack changes that analysis.

They're JUST NOW starting to realize this?!? Dude.

I know. Pervez himself is something of a recent convert if Coll's reporting is accurate. And he generally gets my benefit of the doubt.

Is my conjecture (that the police, not the cricket team, were the target) too off-base to acknowledge?

No, that's possible Nell, although it does seem like a roundabout way to target police. Why not strike at a station with a car bomb?

Two thoughts:

1. The Pakistani team was supposed to be right behind the Sri Lankan team, but were late due to a last minute delay at the hotel. So it's certainly possible that the terrorists intended to hit both teams.

2. By targeting the cricket team, they ensure more media coverage, and badly damage the legitimacy of the Pakistani government because they were supposed to be providing presidential level security.

It will also further isolate Pakistan, as fewer internationals of any stripe will be inclined to visit.

Liberal Japonicus -- that's right, India was scheduled to tour Pakistan but cancelled after the Mumbai attacks, and Sri Lanka stepped in and replaced India.

Fostert -- having grown up in Bangalore, I take your Dravid-bashing personally. (I mean, I hear you when it comes to the one day games, which he no longer plays. But he's been so good for so long -- arguably India's second best batsman of all time, certainly in the top 3 -- that you can't let a bad season and a half or so seal his fate.)

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