PSL final: CM Shehbaz told to seek security command’s input

Govt to assess situation in apex committee today and take a decision in a cabinet meeting

Rameez Khan/Sardar Sikander February 26, 2017
Shahbaz Sharif: MAJESTIC CELEBRATIONS, The British High Commission celebrates the 90th birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in Islamabad

ISLAMABAD/ LAHORE: 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.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Saturday discussed the issue 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, sources told The Express Tribune.

“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 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 set up for PSL final

An important meeting of Punjab’s apex committee is also expected today (Sunday) under the chairmanship of the CM Shehbaz. Reportedly, the issue of the PSL final will be discussed in the meeting. A decision is expected, however, in a subsequent cabinet meeting.

“If the military authorities confirm that security measures are aboveboard and chances of any untoward activity are nil then we can go ahead with hosting the [PSL] final in Lahore. Else, the gravity of the situation could lead to exercising other options,” an official privy to the issue said.

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 to the city.  They said in the wake of the reports, it was difficult for the government to make a decision.

Decided: With or without foreign players, PSL final will be held in Lahore

He said in case government decides to cancel the event, it would give a very negative message and spread a sense of insecurity; however, if the government decided to proceed with it and any untoward incident happened then the repercussions would also be devastating.

Sources said the PM is all for holding the final in Lahore. “But the matter has to be seen beyond personal preferences,” a federal government functionary said.

Apart from the PM, army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa has also put his weight behind the PSL’s final in the provincial capital.

However, the recent attacks in different parts of the country including a ‘mysterious’ blast at a posh cafe in Lahore appear to have mounted the concerns of the government.

Lahore blast: what does it mean for the PSL final?

A source in Punjab government said the willingness shown by the franchises of all the PSL teams to play in Lahore has been an encouraging sign.

Prior to this move, the Pakistani authorities were concerned that majority of international players would be reluctant to play in Lahore.

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.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, Punjab’s Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said the Punjab government, in coordination with security authorities, has taken foolproof security measures for the final. “However, decisions on such issues take time. So even if it takes a day or two, it is not a big deal,” Sanaullah added.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 26th, 2017.

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