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Another Black Day for Pakistan
Hamid Mir
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Coverage: Attack on Mumbai

March 03, 2009

Just two days before the brutal attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore [Images], former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif [Images] had expressed serious concerns about his own security.

He asked his close aide senator Pervez Rashid to write a letter to the inspector general of police, informing him that some people from Layari area of Karachi have reached Lahore, to play havoc with his security.

Sharif gave this instruction to Rashid in the presence of this scribe at the former premier's Raiwind residence.

Sharif further said that according to his information, Rehman Dakait, a notorious criminal from Lyari, had sent his henchmen to Lahore to disrupt the law and order situation in the city. His aim was to discourage the people from participating in the long march -- for the independence of the judiciary -- on March 12.

 "Today, President (Asif Ali) Zardari has become my enemy and he doesn't want me to lead the long march from Lahore to Islamabad [Images]. He may try to scare me, but I will continue my public meetings. I want to participate in the long march, not on a vehicle but on my feet," said Sharif.

He also criticised Zardari's decision to impose governor's rule in Punjab, saying it will create instability and instigate violence, which will weaken the administrative control in the province. Some non-state actors will try to take advantage of this political anarchy, he claimed.

He added that some disgruntled militants will try to create another Swat-like situation in Punjab. Sharif never dismissed the possibility of intervention by non-political forces to derail the democratic process in the country once again.

Within hours of this conversation, I conveyed Sharif's concerns to President Zardari.

I requested President Zardari to normalise relations with Sharif, as he will lose the most in the given scenario.

Zardari dismissed Sharif's concerns, saying some people were trying to create more misunderstandings between the two of them.

He agreed that some non-state actors will try to exploit the situation. Zardari added that he alone can't cool the tensions between him and Sharif, and the latter should also be flexible. The same night, President Zardari issued an ordinance for the establishment of mobile courts, to punish criminals on the spot.

Next day, Baluchistan Chief Minister Nawab Raisani met Sharif's brother Shahbaz in Bahawalpur and delivered a message of reconciliation from President Zardari.

Some federal ministers also suggested that Zardari replace Punjab Governor Salman Taseer with some neutral person to alleviate tensions with Sharif.

Many people expected President Zardari to make some announcement on this issue on Tuesday, but the day ended up being another Black Day for Pakistan. Tuesday started off with the arrest of some Taliban [Images] leaders in Swat. In retaliation, the Taliban militants started attacking security forces, in spite of the truce announced a few days ago.

The most horrifying incident of Black Tuesday took place in Lahore. People of Pakistan watched the action replay of the 26/11 Mumbai [Images] attacks in Lahore for at least 25 minutes.

Though the death toll in the attack on the Lankan cricket team is lower, the impact of the attack is similar to that of the Mumbai terror siege.

Terrorists took advantage of the poor security arrangements for the Sri Lankan cricket team. It was unfortunate that Sri Lankan cricketers were not provided a bullet proof vehicle, despite the fact that the government of Punjab received an intelligence report on January 22, that the cricketers might be attacked in Lahore.

Some retired army generals like Hameed Gul have pointed fingers towards India, but the Pakistan government as well as mainstream Pakistani media remained cautious on this point.

Indian filmmaker and peace activist Mahesh Bhatt [Images], who recently visited Pakistan as part of a peace delegation, rightly said that the whole of South Asia is burning in the fire of terrorism, from Mumbai to Lahore and from Colombo to Dhaka. He urged that the time has come for the governments and people of South Asia to unite against terrorism, instead of blaming each other.

It is time the political leadership in Pakistan stops blaming foreign hands and unites against the non-state actors as well as against those who are inviting non-political forces to intervene.

It is a pity that there is no understanding between President Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani [Images] on many issues.

Gilani had advised Zardari to cancel the ordinance on mobile courts. This advice clearly proves that President Zardari has differences not only with Sharif, but also with his own prime minister.

Zardari cannot fight terrorists without the help and support of his prime minister and Sharif. Another terror attack in Punjab may create enormous complications for Zardari.

As the first step towards reconciliation, he must replace controversial Punjab Governor Salman Taseer with a neutral person. Taseer is currently the most powerful person in Punjab, after the suspension of the elected provincial assembly and the provincial government.

He unnecessarily removed some police officers, who had planned fool proof security for Sri Lankan cricketers in Lahore, from their posts. He is responsible for the serious security lapse in Lahore on Tuesday. It would be appropriate if the governor resigned on his own.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh [Images] and India's Home Minister Shivraj Patil [Images] resigned after the terror attack on Mumbai. Punjab Governor Salman Taseer should also resign after the attack on the Lankan cricketers.

Zardari can unite Pakistan by sacrificing Taseer. Only a united Pakistan can stop the fire of terror from spreading all across South Asia.

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