Pakistani officials received specific warnings that militants were planning to ambush the Sri Lankan cricket squad, but they were unable to prevent Tuesday’s deadly attack because of the country’s spiralling political crisis, opposition MPs claimed.
At least a dozen heavily armed gunmen remain at large after launching the commando-style assault on the Sri Lankan team, killing six policemen and two bystanders, and injuring seven players and officials. The driver of one of the buses in the team’s convoy was also killed.
Barack Obama said the United States was deeply concerned by what the US state department called a “vicious attack on innocent civilians”.
The head of Pakistan’s interior ministry, Rehman Malik, said the country was “in a state of war” and the authorities were investigating whether the attackers had intended to take hostages. “The way they came prepared and in large numbers indicates such a plan,” he said.
But last night attention was focusing on the apparently lax security arrangements, after a document emerged in the Pakistani media showing that local police had warned in writing of the possibility of the Sri Lankan team being targeted.
The letter, dated January 22 this year, from a member of the criminal investigation branch to the then provincial police chief, said he had “learnt” that an attack was planned on the Sri Lankan team, either at their hotel or between the hotel and the sports stadium.
Police and administration officials met on January 23 to assess the threat, but before action could be taken, the government of Punjab province — of which Lahore is the capital — run by the party of the former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, was dismissed, following a court ruling .
The federal government, led by Asif Zardari, then installed its own administration, and the upper ranks of the police and administration were replaced.
Opposition politicians accused the government of ignoring specific warnings. “Intelligence reports said there might be an attack on the cricket team,” said Pervez Rashid, a senior member of the sacked Punjab government.