Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

Police had 'detailed' warning of terror plot

A power struggle between Pakistan's two major political parties is blamed for a security lapse that enabled terrorists to attack the visiting Sri Lankan cricket team.

LAHORE // A power struggle between Pakistan's two major political parties was blamed yesterday for a security lapse that enabled terrorists to attack the visiting Sri Lankan cricket team. Pakistani police hunted yesterday for gunmen who mounted an audacious, commando-style gun and bomb attack on the team in Lahore that killed seven people and wounded 19, including seven cricketers and their British coach. Criticism of the security provided for the Sri Lankan cricket team was based on the lack of security along the route from the hotel to the cricket stadium, the fact that the bus was not bullet-proof and that authorities had not heeded a warning of a possible attack. CCTV footage broadcast by the Geo news television channel showed three gunmen calmly walking in a side street after the attack with no evidence of being pursued by security forces. The footage shows two gunmen leaving on a motorcycle. A former England cricketer, Chris Broad, who was match referee for the Pakistan-Sri Lankan second test, expressed his anger towards Pakistan for providing inadequate protection and criticised its security forces, who he said ran for cover during the attack. "I am extremely angry that we were promised high-level security and in our hour of need that security vanished," he said. "I raised my concerns with the [International Cricket Council] before the tour started and they passed on those concerns to the Pakistan Cricket Board and they assured me through e-mail that all security would be taken care of, presidential-style security. And clearly that didn't happen."

The Lahore city police chief, Habib-ur Rehman, rebutted the deluge of general criticism. "It was precisely because of police valour and bravery that the Sri Lankan team and the international umpires survived," he said. Attention has focused on changes made to the senior echelon of the Punjab provincial police force on the eve of the attacks that may have led to a security warning of an imminent attack on the Sri Lankan team going unheeded. The Punjab has been the scene of bitter political tension in the last week since the Supreme Court barred Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister, and his brother, Shahbaz Sharif, the provincial governor, from holding office. The federal government, led by Asif Ali Zardari, the president, then installed its own administration, and the upper ranks of the police and administration were replaced. The inspector general of the Punjab police, Shaukat Javed, was replaced along with a Capital City police officer, Pervez Rathore, a detective inspector general of investigation and nine other senior officers. Mr Javed confirmed to The National he had issued the warning of the terrorist threat. The criminal investigation department of the Punjab is reported to have issued a warning to the government in a letter on Jan 22 that an attack would be carried out by India. "The letter was sent and contained very specific information," Mr Javed said. "Since I left charge two days ago I cannot say whether the detailed security plan we made - that would have made sure that such an attack would not have happened - was implemented."

Mr Javed said it would "not be proper" for him to comment on the security arrangements for the Sri Lankan team made by his successor. The News newspaper published the letter yesterday, saying the warning was sent to Kamal Shah, the federal interior secretary, "for perusal and necessary action". "It has been reliably learnt that RAW [the Indian intelligence agency] has assigned its agents the task to target Sri Lanka Cricket Team during its current visit to Lahore, especially while travelling between the hotel and stadium or at a hotel during their stay," the letter said. Police and administration officials met on Jan 23 to assess the threat, but before action could be taken, the government of Punjab, which is run by the party of Mr Sharif, was dismissed, after a court ruling. Critics have said the political struggle has deflected attention away from Pakistan's campaign against terrorists, not least because police officers have been deployed to control anti-government riots staged by Mr Sharif's party, the Pakistan Muslim League. Senior officers have been involved in planning to scotch a four-day anti-government "long march" scheduled to leave Lahore for the capital, Islamabad, on March 12. On the day of the attacks in Lahore, Shahbaz Sharif, spent several hours railing against Mr Zardari. His party staged an anti-government protest a few kilometres from the scene of attack. But even those among Mr Zardari's allies, including Aftab Sherpao, a former interior minister, have criticised the government for lax security. Imran Khan, a former cricketer and opposition politician, told ITV News: "It's the government of Punjab that is responsible for this because it is shocking - the sort of security they provided the Sri Lankan team after having given them guarantees that all the security concerns would be taken care of. A normal minister in Pakistan ? would have got better security than was provided to the Sri Lankans." The Punjab governor, Salman Taseer, acknowledged that senior police officials had been changed, but the home secretary, responsible for security in the province, had remained in office. The Punjab chief secretary, Naguibullah Malik, told Dawn, a daily newspaper, the reshuffle had no effect: "Transferred officials do not take away with them the institutional memory." The home secretary, Nadeem Hasan, said an investigation was under way to establish whether security guidelines had been followed. iwilkinson@thenational.ae

Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greets supporters after his arrival in Zahedan, the regional capital of Sistan and Baluchestan province on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. During Mr Rouhani's two-day visit, he will tour several other cities and hold meetings with local scholars and entrepreneurs. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

On the road with Hassan Rouhani

Iran's president is touring some of Iran's most underdeveloped provinces. Foreign correspondent Yeganeh Salehi is traveling with him.

 The Doha-based Youssef Al Qaradawi speaks to the crowd as he leads Friday prayers in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt in February, 2011. The outspoken pro-Muslim Brotherhood imam has been critical of the UAE’s policies toward Islamist groups, adding to friction between Qatar and other GCC states. Khalil Hamra / AP Photo

Brotherhood imam skips Doha sermon, but more needed for GCC to reconcile

That Youssef Al Qaradawi did not speak raises hopes that the spat involving Qatar and the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain might be slowly moving towards a resolution.

 Twitter photo of  Abdel Fattah El Sisi on the campaign trail on March 30. Photo courtesy-Twitter/@SisiCampaign

El Sisi rides a bicycle, kicks off social media storm

The photos and video created a huge buzz across social media networks, possibly a marker of a new era for Egypt.

 An Afghan election commission worker carries a ballot box at a vote counting centre in Jalalabad on April 6. A roadside bomb hit a truck carrying full ballot boxes in northern Afghanistan, killing three people a day after the country voted for a successor to President Hamid Karzai. Eight boxes of votes were destroyed in the blast, which came as the three leading candidates voiced concerns about possible fraud. Noorullah Shirzada / AFP Photo

Two pressing questions for Afghanistan’s future president

Once in office, the next Afghan president must move fast to address important questions that will decide the immediate future of the country.

 Friday is UN Mine Awareness Day and Omer Hassan, who does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan, is doing all he can to teach people about the dangers posed by landmines. Louise Redvers for The National

A landmine nearly ended Omer’s life but he now works to end the threat of mines in Iraq

Omer Hassan does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan and only has to show people his mangled leg to underscore the danger of mines. With the world marking UN Mine Awareness Day on Friday, his work is as important as ever as Iraq is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world.

 Supporters of Turkey's ruling AKP cheer as they follow the election's results in front of the party's headquarters in Ankara on March 30. Adem Altan/ AFP Photo

Erdogan critic fears retaliation if he returns to Turkey

Emre Uslu is a staunch critic of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Now, with a mass crackdown on opposition expected, he is unsure when he can return home.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National