LAHORE - After days of speculations about holding the Pakistan Super League (PSL) final in Pakistan, the authorities finally confirmed Sunday the match will be played in the Punjab capital bringing cheers to the people.
All the rest of the matches of the event are being played in the UAE but the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) wanted to stage the final in Pakistan in a bid to bring back international cricket to the terrorism-hit country.
Pakistan has been cricket-starved over the last eight years since a terror attack on the Sri Lankan Cricket in Lahore.
The decision on PSL final was delayed amid security concerns following a recent string of terrorist attacks across the country which claimed nearly 100 lives.
“[After consideration by] law and order committee, and provincial and federal security institutions, the decision to hold PSL Final [in at Gaddafi Stadium on March 5] has been finalised,” the Punjab government said in a statement after a high-level security huddle.
“The decision has been taken keeping in mind the interests of Pakistan,” said Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who gave the go-ahead for the match at a meeting of provincial Cabinet Committee on Law and Order.
PSL Chairman Najam Sethi that the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) as well as the government was committed to hosting the final in Lahore, for which they would utilise all their resources to make it a success.
“By holding the PSL final in a befitting manner, we want to give a clear message to the entire world that we are a peaceful nation and we will not be blackmailed by terrorists,” he told reporters on Monday.
But cricket legends Imran Khan and Javed Miandad opposed the decision, fearing a bleaker future for the sport in the country if something bad happened.
Imran, who is also the chairman of major opposition party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, called the decision ‘madness’.
People however hailed the government decision, defying all threats by the enemy seeking to destabilise the state and shatter the image of Pakistanis as peaceful and cricket loving people.
The citizens from all walks of life termed the decision a vital step towards restoration of the international cricket in the country.
Overjoyed Lahorites came out on the roads after the announcement. At some places jubilant people danced to the tune of drums while at others they released lighting lamp (Qandeels) to express their happiness.
CM’s security assurance
Presiding over the meeting of the Provincial Cabinet Committee on law and order, Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif assured that foolproof security will be provided to the PSL finalists and the citizens for which multi-tier security arrangements have been made.
Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and the federal government had pledged to help Punjab in maintaining security to make holding of the PSL match possible which went into a quandary after February 13 suicide attack at the heart of the city.
CM Shehbaz through telephone informed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif about the Monday’s decision and security steps being taken to ward off any action from the evil doers. The premier appreciated the decision and offered every support and help of the federal government.
The Cabinet Committee meeting, which reviewed all security aspects relating to the mega event, was attended by provincial ministers Rana Sanaullah, Col (r) Ayub Gadhi, Adviser Rana Maqbool Ahmad, the chief secretary, Inspector General of Police, Lahore Division commissioner and other senior officials.
Home secretary, CCPO and DIG Operations briefed the meeting about arrangements and the input from all department concerned was obtained. Shehbaz directed the committee to make best arrangements for the match and also review security and other measures on daily basis while he will personally monitor progress on all arrangements.
The chief minister appealed to the nation to support government efforts for the success of the PSL contest.
He said that all concerned institutions should perform their duties with best coordination for making it successful, and that other arrangements for the event should also be excellent.
The CM said that no conspiracy of enemy will be allowed to succeed. He said that nefarious designs of terrorists and their facilitators will be foiled jointly and expressed the hope that “we will come up to expectations of the masses”.
8 foreign security experts to watch final
PSL Chairman Najam Sethi said that eight foreign security experts would watch the final in Lahore.
“Eight foreign security experts, which also include two from the International Cricket Council (ICC), will come and witness the mega final at Gaddafi Stadium Lahore,” he told media persons.
Sethi said that the PSL management would talk to foreign players of the finalists about their willingness to play the final in Lahore.
“We have talked to foreign players in this regard, and those, who will refuse to come, will be replaced by other international players.”
He also said that the event would be held in Lahore as per the aspirations of the people of Pakistan. “We want the masses to enjoy the mega final with great zeal and zest as they have to witness international players in action at home ground after a long gap. I hope the final will also prove helpful in opening floodgates of international cricket on Pakistan.”
He said that tickets for the final of the Pakistan Super League’s (PSL) second edition would be on sale from tomorrow (Tuesday). “Tickets of Rs 500, Rs 4000, Rs 8000 and Rs 12000 would be on sale from tomorrow.”
Imran, Miandad oppose Lahore final
PTI chairman and former captain Imran Khan voiced his strong opposition to holding the final of PSL in Lahore.
“God forbid, if any blast takes place in Lahore, there will be no cricket in Pakistan in the next 10 years,” Khan said on Monday. “This is madness considering the situation here,” he said.
Referring to the series of bomb blasts which rocked Pakistan, he said: “What’s the point of holding the PSL final in Lahore? It isn’t even an international match,” he said. “In my view, it is a very terrible idea. We want to hold this match by calling in army and blocking roads and there will be high security. This will not send a good message,” he added.
Legendary cricketer Javed Miandad fully backed Imran Khan’s stance on hosting the final in Lahore. “I have been saying this for the last three days that there is need to hold the final in Lahore owing to security situation,” Miandad said. “This would be a great setback to Pakistan’s cricket if anything happened during the final,” he added.
The reactions from Khan and Miandad came shortly after Najam Sethi and Punjab authorities confirmed the holding of the PSL final in Lahore on March 5.