LAHORE / ISLAMABAD: Fate of PSL Final – in Lahore or Dubai – will be decided by the Punjab Apex Committee in Lahore today. Corps Commanders Lahore, GOC and other high-level officials are participating in the meeting which is going to be presided over by CM Shahbaz Sharif.
Provincial Apex committee meeting still under way for last 3 hours.. Chief Minister Punjab presiding.. Corps Commander Lahore also present.. pic.twitter.com/QcXq8EOzSB
— Govt Of The Punjab (@GovtOfPunjab) February 26, 2017
Earlier the federal government has instructed the Punjab government to put on hold the decision to host the final match of Pakistan Super League (PSL) in Lahore and first to seek input from the security establishment.
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PCB & PSL Chairmen favor matches in Lahore
PSL Chairman, Najam Sethi and PCB Chairman Shaheryar Khan, are both clear that PSL matches in Lahore should go ahead even if the foreign players don’t participate. Most foreign players had however shown willingness to play in Lahore after the Feb 13, terror attack in Lahore. However what is the final impact of the mysterious blast in a DHA cafe on Feb 24, is less than clear.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, on his return back from Turkey, discussed this matter with Chief Minister, Punjab Shahbaz Sharif (who is also his brother) on Saturday, over phone. During the discussion, it was decided that the Punjab government will officially take up the issue of the security of the mega event with the military authorities. This is the context of the ongoing Apex Committee meeting in Lahore.
“A decision in favour of hosting the PSL final in the provincial capital on March 5 depends on the input from the security brass,” an official in Lahore said. Earlier, the decision on the PSL final was expected to be taken on Friday but the Punjab government was asked to wait for arrival of the PM from Turkey.
Security committee to decide Fate of PSL in Lahore
Officials of Punjab government, talking to media, reveal that CM Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif, is apprehensive on the recent developments. He is prepared to announce the PSL matches in Lahore provided federal government can extend him assurances of security for players and public.
This also brings into question Punjab Government’s own clarification that blast in a DHA Lahore Cafe, on Feb 24, was not an act of terrorism. Initially all media, quoting police sources, reported the DHA blast as an act of terrorism. However Punjab government first claimed it was a generator blast and later, after several hours, clarified that it was an accident due to large gas cylinders used in the cafe. However media reports on Feb 25, tell that one important factor, behind PSL match decision, still is the final 100% determination of the nature of blast in DHA, and despite declaring it as an accident, doubts still linger in the minds of police officials.
DHA Forensic Report: “It was not a terrorist activity but an accident caused by cylinder blast” pic.twitter.com/HMgdePavEp
— Govt Of The Punjab (@GovtOfPunjab) February 24, 2017
It is understood that if PSL matches are now cancelled it will send a negative message of capitulation to the Afghanistan and Indian backed terrorists; but any untoward incident will also spread more insecurity; so its a tough call.
Final decision will rest upon security assessment. “If the military authorities confirm that foolproof security measures can be put in place and chances of any untoward activity are nil then Punjab government can go ahead with hosting the [PSL] final in Lahore. otherwise the gravity of the situation could lead to exercising other options, meaning holding matches in Dubai” a Punjab official familiar with the issue told media.
According to some sources, in recent meetings of Cabinet Committee for Law and Order, intelligence shared with the government suggested a high level of threat, from Afghanistan based terrorist groups, to the city. They said in the wake of the reports, it was difficult for the government to make a decision.
Officials also said that it is understood that if PSL matches are now cancelled it will send a negative message of capitulation to the Afghanistan and Indian backed terrorists; but any untoward incident will also spread more insecurity; so its a tough call.
Sources in Islamabad say that both the PM, Nawaz Sharif and military Chief, Gen. Bajwa, are in favor of holding the final in Lahore. But this matter has to be seen beyond personal preferences and needs careful assessment.
PSL Teams and players willing to play in Lahore.
Sources in PCB and PSL reveal that all teams and most international players have shown willingness to play in Lahore. All five PSL teams are willing to play in Lahore; these are:Peshawar Zalmi, Quetta Gladiators, Lahore Qalandars, Islamabad United and Karachi Kings.
Of the foreign players, apparently till last news on the subject, players including Darren Sammy, Ravi Bopara, David Milan, Chris Jordan, Amar ul Qaes and Shaheryar Nafees were willing to come to Lahore. Kumar Sangakara and Chris Gale had refused.
Media have learnt from PSL sources, that apart from fool proof security, government is all offering additional payments from $10,000 to $50,000 per player for matches in Lahore.
The attack on Sri Lankan team, near Qaddafi stadium, then seen as a mere local terrorism now assumes new significance. Because all the Jihadi elements and groups then involved or active have been eliminated or arrested and have been replaced by newer entities, claiming newer agendas but apparently the “mysterious mind set’ that wants to deny international cricketing in Pakistan still looms large behind the new terror entities.
Prior to this move, the Pakistani authorities were concerned that majority of international players would be reluctant to play in Lahore – after the Feb 13 terror attack outside Punjab assembly; however how the situation of players has changed or not changed after the mysterious blast in a Lahore Defense Cafe, on Feb 24, is not clear. The government is set to extend written assurances to the PSL players individually and officially of foolproof protection in case it receives a ‘green signal’ from the security authorities, an insider said.
Sources revealed that government has made the deployment plan for the PSL. According to the security plan, the outer and outer most cordons would be managed by the police and Rangers whereas the inner cordons would be managed by Arms forces. To many this reminds of the Hollywood movies when authorities in a large metropolis fear terrorist attacks against a public gathering for sporting event, and police administrations are on the edge.
However till Feb 25, no foreign player or broadcaster had applied for Pakistani visas for the matches in Lahore.
Pakistan’s Isolation from International Cricketing Events
International cricket is not happening in Pakistan for more than ten years. Isolation of Pakistan was mostly lead by Indian cricket board and governments after 9/11 joined by Australians and other teams. In March 2009, Sri Lankan team was sent specially by their government, on request of Pakistani government to break country’s sporting isolation. The attack on Sri Lankan team, near Qaddafi stadium, then seen as a mere local terrorism now assumes new significance. Because all the Jihadi elements and groups then involved or active have been eliminated or arrested and have been replaced by newer entities, claiming newer agendas but apparently the “mysterious mind set’ that wants to deny international cricketing in Pakistan still looms large behind the new terror entities.