Late Tuesday morning, the Sri Lankan cricket team was driving towards Qaddhafi Stadium in the centre of Lahore to continue its test match against Pakistan when gunmen leapt out at them and shot from three directions. Eight team members are wounded. Seven policemen are dead. The series is cancelled. All the roads in that part of town are blocked.
Starting from around 10 a.m. I heard ambulances going down Canal Road, with their loudspeakers blaring for people to get out of the way. One, two, some five ambulances over the course of an hour. I was reading email and preparing my class for the day – non-violence in Jainism – and thought maybe there had been a big accident or something nearby.
But the sirens haven’t stopped. Friends have phoned friends to ask if everyone’s okay and everyone was okay because the people targeted were Sri Lankans and the people killed were policemen. The rest of us are horrified, as we figure out how to leave our houses to go where we need to go.
News outlets are saying that the gunmen left behind grenades, guns and, get this, rocket launchers. Rocket launchers! The police gave chase and first it was said that someone was caught in Model Town, a neighbourhood 15 minutes away. But those weren’t the right guys, it seems. Meanwhile, the bomb squad defused a bomb at the scene.
Analysts are saying that this is a “Mumbai-style” attack, with backpacks, which means that it is Lashkar-e-Tayyaba; that RAW, the Indian intelligence service, is “mullawiss”, embroiled, in it; that this has never happened before in Pakistan, the targeting of sportsmen and sports fans – well, except in Peshawar that one time. The noxiousness of the notion that we are shocked – shocked, I say! – to discover that there is violence going on in this establishment! Or of immediately rushing to the conclusion that, as with all the evils befalling Pakistan, Indian intelligence is supposedly involved. It just defies sense.
Here’s an irony: The Sri Lankan team left their country in a state of war to come play cricket in a country where the war is utterly unrelated to them, and promptly got shot at.
A Sri Lankan friend of mine, Priya Thangarajah, gave me a kind of definition for a war zone recently in a conversation about the perception of conflict from afar. She said (I’m paraphrasing) that everywhere’s a war zone. One part of a country is on fire constantly and the other part is having its tea, disrupted occasionally by a suicide bomb or an air raid. Killed occasionally, and then life moves on.
Everywhere’s a war zone. People are crying over the loss of Pakistani cricket, and it’s a loss, or the loss of international credibility, like we had a great store. These things are true and real. But we lack outrage now. We are ruled the stages of national grief: denial, fear, depression and hardly ever get to anger. There is resignation on the air, but outrage is becoming harder and harder to come by. When we begin to feel outraged, that’s perhaps when things will change.