Pakistan on back foot on Lahore security lapses (Roundup)

March 5th, 2009 - 9:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Pervez MusharrafIslamabad, March 5 (IANS) The Pakistani authorities Thursday went on the back foot in the face of charges that lax security had led to the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore - and TV footage showed motorcycle-riding gunmen fleeing past an approaching police vehicle.
Sri Lankan spinner Muthiah Muralitharan, Australian umpire Simon Taufel, English match referee Chris Broad and former England player Dominic Cork went public with their charges of security lapses - a chorus that former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf also joined in.

In an attempt to cool passions, Punjab provincial Governor Salman Taseer maintained Thursday that security was adequate and that report of the probe into the incident would be released Friday.

“It is wrong to say there was no security. We had provided four vehicles (with security personnel),” Taseer said at a press conference in Lahore.

“We delivered what we promised. Chris Broad is wrong. How can he say there was no security?” the governor wondered.

Broad, the match referee for the second cricket Test between Sri Lanka and Pakistan, Wednesday said he was “extremely angry” about security in Pakistan.

The former England batsman was in a minibus directly behind the vehicle carrying the Sri Lankan players in Lahore Tuesday when both came under terrorists’ fire which wounded six cricketers and killed six policeman and the minibus driver.

“I am extremely angry that we were promised high-level security and in our hour of need that security vanished,” Broad said upon arrival in Manchester.

He said the match officials were left like “sitting ducks” after the security forces ran for cover when the attack happened close to the Gaddafi Stadium.

His remarks were borne out by TV footage aired Thursday that clearly showed two of the terrorists who attacked the Sri Lankan team fleeing past an approaching police vehicle.

Captured by a CCTV camera and aired by Geo TV, the visuals showed two men on a motorcycle, one of them brandishing an automatic, entering the frame from the bottom of the picture.

A police vehicle approaches from the other side, crosses the motorcycle and speeds on without even attempting to stop the duo as they ride out of the frame.

On their part, Muralitharan and Taufel both spoke about an inexplicable change made to the departure timing of the Pakistani team’s bus that had the effect of sparing the host nation’s team from the terrorists’ bullets.

Taufel told The Times that while the two teams had travelled to the stadium together on the previous two days, on the day of the attack the bus carrying the Pakistan team left five minutes later.

“One thing I have been impressed about in Pakistan is that logistically they are usually very well organised. They normally depart on time,” he said in comments quoted Thursday.

“We knew we were departing at 8.30 a.m. on the third morning. As to why the Pakistani team left at a different time, I don’t know.”

Muralitheran suggested the terrorists may have had inside information.

“Somehow in this incident there were no police with guns on the bus - if someone was there with a gun we would have had a chance of defending ourselves,” Muralitharan told Radio5aa in Adelaide, Australia.

Cork said the Lahore attack was “one of the most frightening experiences” imaginable.

“It’s just been one of the most frightening experiences you could ever witness,” said Cork, whose bus was just ahead of the ones carrying the Sri Lankan players and umpires.

Musharraf, speaking for the first time in public on the Lahore attack, blamed the security forces for not reacting swiftly and effectively when the terrorists struck.

“I expected the security forces to shoot down those people who attacked the Sri Lankan team. There are elite forces placed there and they are expected to react within three seconds of any such incident,” he told reporters here.

“This the kind of training that these forces are provided with. The standards of the training have to improve if we are to tackle such situations effectively,” the former president maintained.

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