Pakistan Cricket Ambush Controversy Focuses on Security
By Barry Newhouse
05 March 2009
Pakistani officials continue to search for gunmen who participated in Tuesday's ambush of the Sri Lankan cricket team, but have announced no arrests. The security provided to the players and the police response continue to draw criticism.
Foreign players and umpires who came under fire have returned home, but they are continuing to criticize the Pakistani security forces charged with protecting them.
The gun, grenade and rocket attack killed seven Pakistanis and wounded six Sri Lankan players and their assistant coach.
Australian umpire Steve Davis was traveling in a van with other umpires behind the Sri Lankan team bus.
"We were certainly left without any security in our van when we were being fired upon. Security obviously went with the Sri Lankan bus when they managed to get away - but we were left there and no one came back for us," he said.
Pakistan's top cricket official has dismissed similar claims by other players and umpires, citing the six police who died trying to protect the convoy.
Video footage of the attack filmed by Pakistani news crews, as well as security camera tapes from shops near the ambush site, showed attackers almost casually fleeing. One camera filmed two attackers walking down a commercial street, carrying assault rifles, before hopping on a motorcycle and driving off.
Critics of the security now include former President Pervez Musharraf, who made a rare appearance before reporters to lament the damage done to cricket in Pakistan. The former general criticized the police commandos' inability to kill any of the gunmen.
"If this was the elite force I would expect them to have shot down those people who attacked them," said Mr. Musharraf. "The reaction, their training should be on a level that if anyone shoots toward the company they are guarding, in less than three seconds they should shoot the man down."
Terrorism-related violence has surged in Pakistan in the past year, but there has not been a corresponding rise in the number of people convicted on terrorism charges.
The Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies, in Islamabad, says nearly 8,000 people were killed in terrorist attacks in 2008, more deaths than the previous three years combined. The number of attacks last year reached nearly 2,600, including 63 suicide attacks.
But while dozens of suspects are frequently rounded up, they are rarely convicted.
Tasneem Noorani is a former interior secretary with extensive experience in law enforcement. When asked to name the last high-profile terrorism conviction in Pakistan, he cites the July 2002 verdict against the killers of American reporter Daniel Pearl.
"A lot of other cases, somehow the prosecution or the investigation does lose its way, I think the administration and prosecution agencies they are overwhelmed by the cases and by the time one case is in the spotlight, something else happens and the attentions get diverted, and I think that is one area where the government has to give a better account of itself," he said.
In Lahore, police said they have some strong leads and have detained several people, but they have not announced any charges.
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