KARACHI: Routes leading to the National Stadium were placed under a ‘virtual curfew’ on Saturday as security forces have sealed all the connecting roads by erecting barricades in order to secure the area for the Pakistan Super League (PSL) final match to be held today (Sunday).
Karachi is hosting an international-level cricket match – which will be played by Islamabad United and Peshawar Zalmi – after a gap of nine years.
To avoid any untoward incident, all the roads leading to the National Stadium from Dalmia, Hassan Square, Karsaz Road, University Road and Kashmir Road were sealed by placing trucks, containers and water tankers. Personnel of law enforcement agencies have also been deputed in order to stop anyone from entering the sealed roads.
Only spectators possessing valid identity cards and PSL tickets will be allowed to travel on the roads sealed by law enforcement agencies for the match. The agencies are claiming ‘foolproof’ security arrangements for the match.
Spectators will arrive at the stadium using a shuttle service provided by the government after parking their cars and motorcycles at the five designated spots on University Road and one each at Kashmir Complex and on Dalmia Road.
Multiple rehearsals by law enforcement agencies have also been held in this regard. An extra contingent of law enforcers have been deployed on the routes leading to the stadium while jawans from the Rangers and police will be patrolling the roads on motorcycles and in mobiles. Armored personnel carriers and police commandos have also been stationed at some points along the designated routes while some special guideposts have been set up for cricket fans who intend to come to the stadium. Alternative traffic routes have also been notified for commuters.
“All the arrangements about sealing the roads have already been made, however, the roads leading to the stadium will be sealed on Saturday night,” said SHO Humayun Ahmed of the Aziz Bhatti police station in whose jurisdiction the stadium falls.
Ever present threats of terrorism loom in the city but law enforcers are determined that the match will proceed peacefully and set a precedent for future matches to be held in the port city. “We are mentally and physically prepared to provide protection to all,” said SHO Ahmed. “We are ready to sacrifice our lives for the sake of the country or to secure the lives of the citizens. We are also ready to take the lives of our enemies.”
The officer said that the police jawans do not have any need for orders to shoot on sight. “The officers or personnel on ground do not need any such orders,” he explained. “It is in our training to take action according to the ground situation or circumstances.”
Special security arrangements have been made for the movement of national and international players from their hotels to the stadium. The arrival of the cricketers and foreign spectators has been continuing for the past few days, however, during the main movement, all commercial activities and vehicular traffic en-route to the players’ destination will be closed by the security forces with deployment of hundreds of security personnel.
Security has also been heightened at hotels in Karachi where cricketers and foreign spectators are staying. “Apart from the hotel’s own security, the Pakistan Cricket Board is also providing them protection at the hotels,” explained a representative of one of the five star hotels in Karachi.
The city of lights has been lit up and decorated with national flags, cutouts of PSL players and welcome banners for the cricketers. Trees and bushes along the city’s greenbelts, particularly on the routes leading towards the stadium including Sharae Faisal, Karsaz Road, Sir Shah Suleman Road, Kashmir Road, Dalmia, and University Road, have been decorated with colourful lights, with dividers painted with fresh coats and rubbish removed from the way.
Karachiities have been given an opportunity to enjoy this historical event in a city that once remained in the grip of terrorism, targeted killings and frequent shutter-down strikes. Apart from decorating the city, big banners can also be seen on the city’s roads promoting Sindhi culture, history and heritage. Many residents of the city have been seen snapping pictures of these decorations and taking selfies with the players’ cutouts.
“A few years back, no one could imagine that this could happen in Karachi, a city that consecutively bled for years,” said a cricket fan Fahad Ibrar Khan. “This is the real Karachi, the city of lights and the government and law enforcers should maintain this.”
The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) has taken credit for all the arrangements. “The credit goes to the KMC and we were able to do so with the help of the chief minister, as he supported us a lot,” said Mayor Wasim Akhtar. “It’s not perfect but we have done a good job of carpeting the damaged roads, sweeping them and decorating them with lights and flowers,” he said. “Hopefully, we will do more and more for the upcoming series of cricket matches with the West Indies.”
Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and Home Minister Sohail Anwar Siyal also visited the stadium ahead of the match to review the security arrangements. Siyal and his squad were allowed to go inside the stadium after being thoroughly checked by the law enforcers. “The Sindh government has fulfilled its promise,” he said. “We are satisfied with the security arrangements as the security plan has been devised accordingly to the International Cricket Council’s laws.” He said that more than 15,000 security personnel will perform duties, adding that the security of the National Stadium has been divided into three layers – the Rangers, the Rangers and police and the police.