ISLAMABAD: In the wake of an uprising in Libya followed by former dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s exit, Pakistan is now in an awkward position of being stuck with a whole cricket stadium named after the tyrant.
This uncomfortable fact hasn’t escaped the ruling Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC), which has unofficially asked Pakistan to rename the famous cricket ground, an official source said.
The message was conveyed to the Pakistani embassy in Tripoli after the NTC adopted a law declaring the glorification of the former Libyan dictator and his family members a punishable offence in May this year.
The ministry of foreign affairs, however, remains undecided on the issue; perhaps waiting for an official demand from the Libyan government that will take over after nationwide elections on July 7, 2012. A foreign office source said the idea is that the new name for Gaddafi Stadium should be suggested by the Libyan government itself.
“By doing so, we will give a friendly message to the Libyan people and the government,” he explained. Another official argued that changing the name of the stadium arbitrarily “will not convey a positive message as a decision taken under compulsion will have no healthy effect on our diplomatic ties with Libya.”
While some are of the opinion that the Punjab government should take a decision on the matter after consultation with the foreign ministry, some others in the ministry believe the name shouldn’t be scrapped at all. Pertinently, the very law that prohibited the glorification of Gaddafi was recently scrapped by Libya’s Supreme Court after opponents said it was a violation of freedom of expression. Another argument on the issue is that the government of Punjab should take a decision on the matter but with the prior consultation of the ministry of foreign affairs.
The Lahore Stadium, the largest cricket stadium in the country with a capacity of 60,000 spectators, was renamed in honour of Gaddafi as a token of respect after a speech made by the dictator at the second summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Lahore when he vehemently supported Pakistan’s right to pursue nuclear weapons.
The Pakistan Cricket Board, with its headquarters located in the stadium, decided to rename the stadium after the Libyan dictator was killed. For reasons unknown, however, this never happened.
The Punjab Olympic Association also reportedly made a similar attempt and requested Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to rename the stadium.
The request was not taken up by the provincial government, which reportedly prefers to continue with the present name.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 4th, 2012.
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