Cricinfo:–The PCB has issued a strong rebuttal of the security advice given by the Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations (FICA) over the planned staging of the Pakistan Super League final in Lahore.
The report strongly suggested that overseas players should decline to participate due to concerns over safety.
Pakistan’s board swiftly and fiercely rejected the FICA assessment via a strongly worded press release. “FICA has done great disservice to the cause of cricket in general and Pakistan cricket in particular by advising players not to play in the PSL final in Lahore next March because of ‘security reasons’,” read a statement. “FICA has cited unnamed expert security consultants for updated security advice that claims Pakistan is at an extremely elevated state of insecurity.”
The FICA statement came shortly after the PCB had announced that the final would be played in Lahore on March 5, as planned, whether overseas players take part or not. If they decline to travel, they will be replaced by players from Pakistan or foreign players who are ready to make a trip. Apart from the final the entire tournament will be played in the UAE – as was the 2016 edition. The two finalists will then meet at Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium.
In the report, FICA warned that the risk level in Pakistan remains “at an extremely elevated state” and that “an acceptable level of participant security and safety cannot be expected or guaranteed”. The report, which FICA said was based on “updated security advice” from expert security consultants, states that: “Pakistan continues to experience significant terrorist attacks across the country and westerners have in the past been directly targeted and killed in Pakistan.
“Indiscriminate and targeted attacks are likely to continue, and expert advice is consistent with all Government Agencies and Diplomatic Missions, who generally advise to reconsider the need to travel. There have been attacks at sporting events, which have had significant security overlay in the past, and terrorist groups in Pakistan have demonstrated the intent and capability to launch attacks anywhere in the country. Locations including luxury hotels are also at high risk of being targeted by militant groups.”
In its response, the PCB said: “This is a careless and cavalier approach to an issue of great importance. FICA sits thousands of miles away from Pakistan and cannot name even one credible security expert, yet makes a sweeping negative statement about the security situation in Lahore. FICA’s claim that ‘westerners and luxury hotels have been attacked’ is contrary to the facts on the ground that prove that not a single foreigner or hotel has been attacked in Lahore in the last five years.”
Pakistan has been a no-go country for major international teams since the attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in 2009. Zimbabwe are the only Full Member to tour Pakistan since, when they visited for a limited-overs series in 2015. There was an attempted suicide attack during that short tour, during the second ODI at Lahore, but it took place nearly 800 metres away from the stadium premises. The tour went ahead. During more than six years of isolation, the PCB has also hosted several Associate and Affiliate countries – Afghanistan, Kenya, Hong Kong and, currently, Malaysia.
Recalling previous incoming tours, the PCB’s statement further read: “PCB has recently hosted Kenya, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh (Women), Afghanistan and Malaysian national cricket teams in Lahore and Karachi without any problem. In the case of PSL final in Lahore for one day, the government has guaranteed protection by over 3000 army and police personnel in Lahore. PCB will provide armoured buses for travel along with VVIP security protocols.”
The statement noted the names of a number of former players, including Brian Lara, Jonty Rhodes, Damien Martyn and others, who had visited Pakistan in recent years in relation to their work as TV experts. Without expanding, the statement also added that the PSL had “already received confirmation from top international players to play in Lahore and PCB is determined to bring cricket home to Pakistan”.