ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s civilian leadership and security command have categorically put their weight behind hosting the final of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) in Lahore but the issue appears to have been marked with serious challenges stemming from the reluctance shown by international players to land in the country after a deadly terrorist attack in Punjab’s provincial capital on Monday.
The issue was discussed at length during a top-level security huddle convened by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday and attended by army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Chief of General Staff Lieutenant General Bilal Akbar, Intelligence Bureau Director General Aftab Sultan, National Security Adviser Lt Gen (retd) Nasser Janjua and others, informed official sources told The Express Tribune.
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Although an official statement did not say if any decision was taken on hosting the PSL final in Lahore, sources said the premier gave the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) his go-ahead to do so after exchanging views with his aides and the security command. The security establishment assured the prime minister of complete support with the final of the ongoing T20 league is held in Lahore on March 7.
Requesting anonymity, a close aide of the prime minister said Nawaz informed the meeting that the PCB management briefed him in detail on the issue. The source said the premier told participants that he wanted to see the PSL final in Lahore even if the entire city had to be brought to standstill. Nawaz, however, added that top international players were feeling reluctant to play in the city after Monday’s attack. Reportedly, the prime minister said he had instructed PCB to extend written assurances of foolproof security to all players unwilling to play in Lahore.
“As a last resort, we have the plan of holding PSL in Lahore without foreign players. But that is way too risky. Imagine if the event failed to live up to the hype attached to it— that would be a huge embarrassment. So, claiming to hold PSL final without famous foreign players is easier said than done,” the premier’s aide said.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Punjab’s Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said the provincial government has already made arrangements to host the PSL final in Lahore. Asked about the issues surrounding the matter in case foreign players were not engaged, he said “Those issues apart, from the security point of view, our commitment to hosting the PSL final stands unwavering.”
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An official statement said the meeting reiterated the “national resolve of complete physical and ideological annihilation of terrorism and extremism. It was agreed that the gains of operations executed by military, civil armed forces and police will not be lost and the state would ensure that terrorists do not resurge, at any cost. The armed forces, police and other civilian law enforcement agencies and people at large have rendered unrivalled sacrifices in this war against terrorism. The narrative of terror has failed to prevail and the narrative of peace, stability and prosperity has taken over.”
The meeting also “reinforced that the overall situation in the country has improved including Fata, Balochistan and Karachi as a result of the state’s offensive against terrorists and miscreants. The meeting made a resolve that terrorism emanating within the country or executed and harboured from outside the country would be eliminated and those posing threat to peace and security of the country would be liquidated by the might of the state.”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 16th, 2017.
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