Memories of 2009 attack still linger; 10 Lankan players opt out of Pak tour

Sri Lanka pacer Lasith Malinga

Sri Lanka is set to visit Pakistan after nearly two years to play three ODIs and three T20I matches from September 27 to October 19. The players who opted out of the series are -- Lasith Malinga, Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Janith Perera, Dhananjaya De Silva, Thisara Perera, Akila Dhananjaya, Angelo Mathews, Suranga Lakmal, Dinesh Chandimal and Dimuth Karunaratne.

The Sri Lankan cricket board conducted a meeting with the players to inform them about the security arrangements and were given the freedom to decide on their participation in the tour. However, the 10 Sri Lankan players "chose to stay away" from the series in Pakistan.

The development marks several instances when major international cricket teams have refused to tour Pakistan since the 2009 terror attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore.

The Sri Lankan team were on their way to Gaddafi Stadium during the Test match with Pakistan when terrorists believed to be from Taliban and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) fired indiscriminately upon the bus. That barbaric attack left eight people dead and injured seven Sri Lankan players and staff.

Since then, international cricket has eluded Pakistan with no high-profile team visiting the country for a full-length tour. However,Sri Lanka returned to Pakistan in October 2017 for a lone T20 match in Lahore, the place where the attack took place eight years ago.

Though, the security situation in Pakistan is far from being completely normal even after the 2009 attack.

Interestingly, the development comes days after US President Donald Trump had called off peace negotiations with the Taliban, after the group had claimed responsibility for the September 5 Kabul car bombing which killed 12 people, including an American soldier and a Romanian service member.

The US President also called off separate meetings with the Taliban representatives and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at Camp David.

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad announced that the Trump administration had reached a deal "in principle" to withdraw over 5,000 troops from Afghanistan in exchange for guarantees by the Taliban.

The group has slammed Trump for his decision and have vowed to carry out "jihad" against "foreign occupation" in Afghanistan as the country gears up to hold its presidential elections later this year.

The cancellation of the US-Taliban talks comes even as Pakistan, which has nurtured the group on its soil for years, has refused to give up terrorism as a state policy, despite massive international pressure.

The adverse impact of the delay in the peace talks would likely be spilt upon Pakistan which has found itself the victim of the terror attacks carried out by it. Even the country's Prime Minister Imran khan admitted recently that his country has about 30,000 to 40,000 terrorists "who have been trained and fought in some part of Afghanistan or Kashmir".

Pakistan has been claiming that they have been a victim of terror, a fact not endorsed by the international community, considering the fact that the country continues to harbour and nurture notorious terror groups. Islamabad has been pushing terror outfits to create unrest in Kashmir, even as it ramps up its diabolic propaganda on the Kashmir issue ever since India revoked the special status accorded to the region in August.

As a result, while the world continues to boycott them in all spheres, they refuse to read the writing on the wall and continue to play ducks and drakes, thinking that they fool the world with their pious statements.

Other than themselves, the only country that buys their argument about being the biggest victim of terrorism, is China.

On Pakistan's request, China -- a close ally of Islamabad -- had called for a closed-door meeting at the United Nations Security Council last month in the wake of India's decision to revoke Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir.

However, the China-Pakistan axis had failed at the closed-door meeting last month when a majority of the Council members refused to take up the Kashmir matter and rejected the Chinese position.

Recently, the foreign ministers of China, Pakistan and Afghanistan participated in the third trilateral dialogue in Islamabad where the three sides backed the need for an inclusive, Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process. However, hours later, Trump's decision to put off US-Taliban talks has given a major jolt to Pakistan, which many saw it bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table.

Aany experts and security analysts had long criticised the US-Taliban negotiations and questioned the absence of the Afghan government in the talks, defeating the very purpose of having a peace process formulated by Kabul, which is endorsed by the international community.

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