New Delhi: An India-Pakistan military researcher says the attack on Sri Lankan cricketers in Lahore is a further deterioration of Pakistan as a state with integrity and that the internal security situation in Pakistan remains as critical ever.
A dozen gunmen in Lahore attacked Sri Lanka's cricket team on Tuesday (March 03) with rifles, grenades and rockets, wounding six players, a British coach and killing at least eight Pakistanis in Lahore.
The attackers fired AK-47s and rockets and hurled grenades at Sri Lanka's team bus as it was being driven to Lahore's Gaddafi stadium for the third day of a match against Pakistan. They then escaped after a firefight with police that lasted 30 minutes.
Cohen told in an exclusive interview that the incident reiterates that the internal security situation in Pakistan is of great concern.
"It doesn't tell us any more than we knew before, which is that the internal security situation in Pakistan is critical. This could have been worse, there was a Pakistani cricket team which left the hotel shortly afterwards, but fortunately they turned back shortly afterwards, so it could have been worse. But we still have no, I don't know of any known theory as to who did this," said Cohen.
The expert also said that the recent incident has proved to be a further deterioration of Pakistan as a state with integrity and that India should be increasingly concerned over a failing Pakistan.
"I think everybody's worried. It's one thing, the Americans the Chinese, the Indians, the Afghans, the Europeans, as well as Pakistanis is the potential deterioration of Pakistan, or the further deterioration of Pakistan as a state with integrity. The Indians maybe ten or fifteen years ago used to think about the destruction of Pakistan, they were fairly relaxed. I think as things go on, as things accelerate, they are more and more concerned about what a failing Pakistan would mean for India," said Cohen.
The broad daylight ambush in Lahore shows how easy it can be for armed groups to grab world headlines with terrifying acts of violence, and so the brazen tactics may trigger copycat attempts among militants in other continents, analysts say.
When asked whether India would be able to force Pakistan to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism in Pakistan, Cohen said that that would not be possible till the time Pakistani is itself not clear as to what to do.
"I think that's the billion dollar question, maybe the $40 billion question. That we are not quite sure what the Pakistanis can do, what they will do, what they want to do. I know some Pakistanis are very concerned about this. They don't like to see their country as the homeland for terrorist groups, but is the state apparatus strong enough to actually root these people out. All major countries including the United States have had trouble like this before. That is an ethnic group, or a minority group, or a terrorist group will use them as a base to attack another country. And of course this is inappropriate, illegal, it violates international law. But the question is, whether this is out of control with the Pakistanis. In which case they need to work with other countries, because we all would suffer if this were to continue on as it has been," said Cohen.
Commenting on the situation in Swat, Cohen said, "Clearly Pakistan is in deep trouble in Swat because it has to deal with people who, at least I and I think most Pakistanis would find very objectionable. On the other hand, it doesn't have the material, organisational power to impose its will on Swat."
Hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes and the Taliban largely controls the Swat valley despite the presence of four army brigades, or roughly 40, 0000 troops.
US officials have expressed unease about Pakistan's strategy for pacifying Swat. They fear it could result in another safe haven for al Qaeda and Taliban militants in the country.
Pakistan has reeled under a wave of bomb and gun attacks in recent years, mostly carried out by Islamist militants linked to the Taliban or al Qaeda. But arch nationalists would relish a link being found between rival India and the Lahore attack.
The incident had echoes of an attack on the Indian city of Mumbai last November in which around 170 people were killed and which led to the Indian cricket team canceling its planned tour of Pakistan, and a Sri Lankan team taking its place.