Mohali security ramped up for India-Pakistan clash

By AFP
Published: March 26, 2011

Some 2,000 security personnel are expected to be deployed in and around the 30,000-capacity PCA Stadium on April 30. PHOTO: REUTERS

MOHALI: Around 3,000 police will patrol Wednesday’s high-profile India-Pakistan World Cup semi-final, the first match between the two arch-rivals on Indian soil since the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Some 2,000 security personnel are expected to be deployed in and around the 30,000-capacity Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) Stadium on April 30.

An estimated 1,000 police have already descended on the luxury Hotel Taj in nearby Chandigarh where both teams are staying including Indian army commandos.

The game, which takes place in the border state of Punjab, has already sparked a flurry of diplomatic activity.

India Prime Minister Manmohan Singh engaged in a little “cricket diplomacy” on Friday by issuing an invitation to the match to his Pakistan counterpart Yousaf Raza Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari.

The invitation comes while relations between the two nations are still tense following the attack by Pakistan-based Islamist militants on Mumbai in 2008 that left 166 people dead.

“I propose to be at Mohali to watch the World Cup semi-final match,” said Singh in his invitation.

“There is huge excitement over the match and we are all looking forward to a great game of cricket, that will be a victory for sport,” he added.

“It gives me great pleasure to invite you to visit Mohali and join me and the millions of fans from our two countries to watch the match.”

Pakistan opener Mohammad Hafeez insisted he had no qualms about the security situation.

“We have no fear or a feeling of any shortcoming when it comes to security,” he said on Saturday.

“That’s not our job; our job is to play cricket. To provide security is the responsibility of the International Cricket Council and the Board of Control for Cricket in India.

“We are very happy and we are enjoying ourselves very much,” he added.

Fans continued to queue at the ground on Saturday even though the PCA had insisted as early as Tuesday that the 14,000 available tickets at the 30,000 capacity stadium had been sold, with the rest in the hands of the ICC.

But some supporters simply refused to believe tickets were no longer available.

But even if this match was being played at the 70,000-capacity Eden Gardens in Kolkata, police and officials would have a job on their hands to combat the black market, such is the passion for cricket in both India and Pakistan and the rivalry between the nuclear powers.

As it is, with most local hotels already booked out and the Airports Authority of India inundated with requests from the country’s super-rich to land their private jets, there are concerns as to how Pakistani fans, scrambling for visas, will be supervised.

Officials are anxious to avoid a repeat of incidents in 2005 when some Pakistan fans in India disappeared only to be arrested for alleged involvement in terror activities or overstaying their visa.

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