LAHORE: The guessing game is over. The decision has been taken. The final of Pakistan Super League (PSL) will be played in Lahore – much to the joy of cricket fans in Pakistan.
The fate of the eagerly-awaited last match of the Twenty20 cricket league had been hanging in the balance since a string of deadly terrorist attacks raised security concerns in Pakistan.
However, Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif cleared the air on Monday, saying that the PSL final would be played at Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium at any cost.
“Everybody has to work with determination, enthusiasm and devotion for making the final match successful,” he said while presiding over a meeting of the Provincial Cabinet Committee on Law and Order which he had convened to review the security situation in the wake of recent bombings in the metropolis.
Lahore blast: what does it mean for the PSL final?
The provincial government had also sought input from other provincial and federal security institutions before making the decision.
Shehbaz hoped that with people’s support the match would be made a resounding success. “No conspiracy of the enemy will be allowed to succeed,” he added. “We will live up to expectations of the masses. The nefarious designs of terrorists and their facilitators will be foiled.”
The chief minister said 100 per cent foolproof security would be ensured for the PSL final. He directed the cabinet committee to make best arrangements for the match and also review security and other measures on a daily basis while he himself would regularly review progress of all arrangements.
According to the provincial government, as many as 7,000 policemen, including 12 SPs, 35 DSPs and 84 SHOs will be deployed at Qaddafi Stadium for security.
Shehbaz said the decision to hold the PSL final in Lahore has been taken in the best interest of the country and its citizens. He appealed to the nation to support his administration’s efforts for the success of the match.
“All concerned institutions should perform their duties with the best coordination for making the final match successful,” he added.
What hosting the PSL final in Lahore means
He directed that the security plan be implemented to a T, and said that an effective monitoring system should be evolved to ensure this.
Earlier Home Secretary Azam Salman, CCPO Lahore Amin Wains, and DIG Operations Dr Haider Asharaf gave detailed briefings on security and other arrangements. Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, Punjab Counterterrorism Minister Col (retd) Ayub Gadhi, Adviser to the CM Rana Maqbool Ahmad, Chief Secretary Zahid Saeed, IG Mushtaq Sukhera, Lahore Commissioner Abdullah Sumbal, and other senior officials were also present in the meeting.
Get your tickets now
The match will be at Gaddafi Stadium and tickets will be available for purchase from Tuesday (today), PSL Chairman Najam Sethi said while talking to media. The tickets will cost from as low as Rs500 to as high as Rs12,000.
“We have a clear message that we are a peaceful nation and will not be blackmailed by terrorists,” Sethi said, adding that eight foreign security experts, including two from the International Cricket Council (ICC), would watch the match at Gaddafi Stadium.
Sethi said that the PSL management would speak to foreign players of the finalists about their willingness to play the final in Lahore.
And what if something goes wrong?
It's final. PSL final to be held in Lahore
Minutes after the Punjab government announced the PSL final would be played in Lahore, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan termed the decision ‘madness’ and ‘a terrible idea’.
“God forbid, if a blast takes place in Lahore, there will be no cricket in Pakistan for the next 10 years,” he said in a television interview.
“Considering the situation here, it’s madness,” he said, referring to the series of bombings that have rocked Pakistan in the past few weeks. “What’s the point of holding the PSL final in Lahore? It isn’t even an international match,” he added.
Khan explained that holding the match would require calling in the army, blocking major roads, and arranging for further heightened security. “This will not send a good message.”
His fears were shared by his legendary cricketer Javed Miandad. Amir Sohail and Shoaib Muhammad who also spoke against hosting the match, citing security fears, while Ramiz Raja was supportive of the decision.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 28th, 2017.