Just as cricket fans in the country were getting ready to witness international cricket on home turf for the first time since 2009 — when the terrorist attack on the visiting Sri Lankan team brought an international ban on fixtures in Pakistan — the tour has been ‘postponed’ on security grounds. The lights at the Gaddafi stadium for the day-night one-day international will not take place at present after all and the plans being made by families and groups of youngsters to watch the matches have had to be cancelled.
This comes after a court in Dhaka asked the Bangladesh Cricket Board to explain why it had scheduled the trip to Pakistan, putting the lives of national cricketers at risk given the security situation in the country. The court is hearing a petition moved by two citizens. While Pakistan has reacted with predictable dismay, the court’s ruling can hardly be described as unjust. The fact that we have to live with is that Pakistan is perceived as a highly dangerous place by people all over the world. There is good reason why people fear travelling to this part and likewise, the anxiety of the Bangladesh cricket team is justified. The numerous terrorist attacks that we have seen over the last few months are one reason for this. The most daring of these has been the recent raid on Bannu prison by some 200 Taliban militants who were able to free around 350 prisoners including highly-wanted persons such as ex-air force technician Adnan Rashid, accused of being involved in an attempt on the life on General Musharraf. Such reports do little to assure people that Pakistan is a safe place.
The truth is that Pakistan is unlikely to see international cricket being played again on its soil until it can improve the existing turmoil within the country. Bangladesh’s outgoing cricket coach Stuart Law had already expressed concern over the tour even before the court ruling. We need to act against terror and wipe it out if we are to persuade foreign teams to visit our shores. The Bangladesh episode should act as a reminder of this and as an example of how miserably we have failed thus far in the war on terror.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st, 2012.