Combating terrorism - Sri Lanka leads
Terrorism has raised its ugly
head again in Pakistan, bringing operations at Karachi's Jinnah
International Airport to a standstill. Day-to-day life in the most
populous metropolitan city of Pakistan was severely disrupted when
terrorists attacked the international airport twice within 48 hours.
Security forces at Pakistan's busiest airport in Karachi came under
attack, a day after militants stormed one of its terminals.
The brazen terrorist assault on Pakistan's largest Karachi Airport
that began near midnight last Sunday left almost everybody stunned. It
was the Pakistan Taliban's deadliest strike on a state security
apparatus - in terms of human casualties, and is a reminder of the
massive security challenge from affiliates of Al Qaeda holed up in the
mountainous Pakistan-Afghanistan border terrain.
Twenty-eight people and 10 attackers died during a firefight which
lasted several hours. Almost all the suspect gunmen were reportedly
wearing suicide vests, devices usually worn by terrorists on termination
missions. Two terrorists had detonated suicide vests. By putting down
the attackers, the security forces preempted a big hostage-taking as the
terrorists had dry foodstuff such as dates and chickpeas as well as
hand-grenades and petrol bombs which show they had came for a long haul.
Flights at the airport resumed a few days ago. Pakistani Taliban said
they carried out both attacks. Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif
had said that the attackers should be "pursued and eliminated".
President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in a message to the Pakistani leader,
vehemently condemned the terrorist attacks on the Jinnah International
Airport. "I am deeply shocked to learn of the heinous terrorist attack.
Sri Lanka having been a victim of terrorism for nearly three decades,
can empathise with Pakistan's dreadful experience in this instance,"
President Rajapaksa had said.
The professionalism of the Pakistani security forces and their
effective action which mitigated wider damage is commendable. It was
obvious that the terrorists had planned to wreak damage on aircraft and
hold the airport for the maximum period possible. Thanks to the prompt
action by the Pakistani forces, the terrorists were unable to damage any
aircraft. President Rajapaksa had quite rightly pointed out that the
terror attack at the Karachi airport demonstrates the urgent need to
further intensify international cooperation to combat terrorism in all
its forms and manifestations in the interest of global peace and
security. In this context, Sri Lankans recall with profound gratitude
Pakistan's invaluable support to eradicate terrorism on our soil. Sri
Lanka will continue to stand by Pakistan in combating terrorism.
As a nation which had been subjected to such merciless terror attacks
on many occasions during three decades of terror unleashed by the LTTE,
we could well perceive the feelings of our neighbours. While offering
our deepest condolences to the Government and the people of Pakistan,
and sharing the grief of the bereaved family members in their hour of
great adversity, our thoughts and prayers are with them and those
injured in this tragedy.
Sri Lanka too had the bitter experience of at least three LTTE terror
attacks at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) in Katunayake
and its neighbouring Sri Lanka Force Base. As the BIA was the country's
only international airport at the time, Sri Lanka's air links to the
rest of the world were severed for a few days.
It was one of the many setbacks the nation had suffered due to the
deadly terror attacks. International airlines are reluctant to operate
to such destinations and even the handful of carriers that operate incur
heavy insurance surcharges due to additional risks. This results in
enhanced air ticket prices.
More importantly, terrorist attacks at international airports impacts
adversely on the tourism industry of a country. Sri Lanka was no
exception as the country's tourist industry was in a near state of
collapse a little over five years ago.
Since the 9/11 attack in 2001, most Western countries made a big hue
and cry on the need to crush global terrorism. Regrettably, they did
precious little towards that goal. Had they been sincere in their
efforts and practise what they preach, global terrorism would have been
crushed by now. In going that extra mile in the guise of crushing Al
Qaeda, countries such as the US and UK are yet to prove their sincerity
in crushing global terrorism. Had they been sincere in their preaching
on the dire need to crush terrorism, they would not have exerted such
undue pressure on Sri Lanka following its success in the 2006-2009
battle against terrorism.
President Rajapaksa had time and again said that there can't be two
definitions of terrorism - one in the West and another for this part of
the world. There are no good terrorists and bad terrorists. Terrorism in
any part of the world inflicts only pain and suffering. Hence, terrorism
in any part of the world should be crushed likewise. The definition of a
person engaging in terror acts should not be changed from a terrorist to
a freedom fighter when it comes to this part of the globe. The West
should desist from using human rights as a tool to appease terrorists in
countries such as Sri Lanka.
While shouting from the rooftops over the human rights of terrorists
in Sri Lanka, these Western countries go all out to eliminate all
elements which they feel are a threat to national security. Countries
such as the US even go to the extent of invading the air space of
countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan to launch drone attacks which
have killed hundreds of civilians.
Barely anybody raises those crucial issues at the UN Human Rights
Commission (UNHRC). On the other hand, there are enough and more
godfathers of human rights who are vociferous when it comes to human
rights of LTTE terrorists killed in action.
The US resumed its drones attacks in Pakistan, with two strikes on
militant strongholds in the North Waziristan tribal region overnight.
Over 16 people, including 13 civilians had been killed as a result. The
Obama administration had agreed to suspend its drones program last
December to allow Islamabad to pursue peace talks with the Pakistani
Taliban (TTP). However, pressure mounted on the Pakistani authorities to
launch a ground offensive in the region following a breakdown in peace
talks. The US' right to combat Al Qaeda terror and protect its people is
quite understandable. Nevertheless, these Western countries must respect
Sri Lanka's inalienable right as a sovereign nation to protect its
people. Sri Lanka should not be penalised for crushing LTTE terror.
The recent terrorist attack in Karachi should be an eye-opener to one
and all. Those in the West should examine their conscience whether they
had done anything tangible to eradicate terrorism in South Asia. The
manner in which certain countries exert unwarranted pressure to meddle
in Sri Lanka's internal affairs having eradicated LTTE terror only
exposes the Western hypocrisy. Asian countries should no longer be
swayed by the preaching of the West whose leaders invariably do more
talking than acting.
If the West was really sincere in its efforts to crush global
terrorism, it should have grabbed Sri Lanka's expertise and its
successful first-hand battlefield experience in defeating terrorism. All
what the West had done since Sri Lanka had overcome the scourge of LTTE
terror had been unwarranted pressure and glib talk on the human rights
of Tiger terrorists killed in action. This only mollycoddles terrorists
in South Asia and renews fresh hopes. The West must demonstrate its
sincerity and make good use of Sri Lanka's landmark achievements in its
battle against terrorism.