The images being aired on the morning of March 4th, 2009 are still fresh in my mind. It was the
saddest day in the history of Pakistani cricket, when a visiting team was attacked and the
terrorists just vanished in thin air after injuring Sri Lankan players, match official, and leaving
behind corpses of dead security personnel. What ensued was the usual: a lot of breaking news,
useless analysis, chatter, noise, formation of Commission, and so and so forth.The attack that
horrified the cricketing world was yesterday’s news for our media. Life returned to normalcy.
“Foreign hand” and “security lapse” were charged, tried, and convicted; case closed!
There were a few sane voices here and there, like ex-Senator Enver Baig and Arif Abbasi who
tried to focus on ‘why’, the attacks took place unlike others who spent hours talking about ‘who’
was behind the attacks. The ‘why’ after these years still remains unanswered!
First off, let me be very clear, it is PCB that spearheads the security and logistics of the visiting
team and not the Provincial Government. Weeks prior to the team’s arrival, a comprehensive
document is prepared outlining the security plan. A committee with respective Governor of the
province as its Patron, and sub-committees are proposed. A formal meeting at the request of PCB
is convened by the Patron. In attendance are the senior representatives of all concerned
government departments, with Police at the forefront. Subsequent meetings were chaired by
Provincial Interior Minister. Frequent meetings were then held at between PCB and law-
enforcement agencies to iron-out details of the security arrangements. That was the Standard
Operating Procedure before ICC decided to hold World Cup and Champions trophy in Pakistan.
To allay the fears, of some members, vis-à-vis law and order situation in Pakistan, a team of
security experts was sent by ICC to review existing SoP on security and logistics. They visited
all venues, met PCB & LEA officials in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad. Reviewed our Blue
Book security protocols. An extensive and sometimes exhausting exercise culminated in the
form of Standard Operation Procedures, more stringent than followed in any other cricketing
country. Trust me when I say this, as Pakistani, Indian teams, and Ten Sports team were being
escorted to Gawaliar Air Force base, we literally had to wait for ten minutes for a herd of cows to
cross the road! But I stray. Having finalized the procedures, it was agreed a dress rehearsal
would be conducted during the 2008 Bangladesh Tour &Asia Cup. PCB was put to test, and the
entire team entrusted with implementation of plan came out with flying colors. Two names come
to my mind as I recall those intense day spent in Karachi, SSP Yousafzai and DIG A.D.
Khawaja. Pakistan got a nod from ICC and we were jubilant.
So what transpired between Asia Cup and Sri Lankan attack? A lot actually. There was a change
of guard at PCB. However, in a haste to remove the lot who had been involved in planning and
executing the newly developed security plan, Ijaz Butt did not realize that their replacement had
neither the experience nor the expertise to hold a match let alone a series.PCB Administration &
Security department failed miserably. No meeting was convened. No sub-committees formed.
No formal meetings were held with Police and other LEA. No command and control center was
established in Gaddafi Stadium. No police officers were deputed with both teams, a vital element
of the plan. An officer of SP rank was supposed to stay 24/7 with each team and travel in their
respective buses from hotel to stadium and back. Special Branch did not sweep the residential
areas on both sides of two routes assigned for teams to travel. Traffic police did not remove
parked vehicles within 200 yards of the routes. A rickshaw carrying a terrorist was parked meters
away from Liberty roundabout. The same terrorist who fired a rocket on the bus. The LEA and
PCB security team did not inspect all security arrangements in and around the stadium two hours
before teams’ arrival. Instead they were all in their ‘jammies’ when the attack took place.
Director HR & Admin was having breakfast at NCA. Director International Cricket was taking a
shower, and SP Model Town, the de-facto in-charge of the entire security arrangement was
sleeping at the time.
Let me also state this for the record, PCB pays a huge sum of money to provincial Police
department for the services rendered during the series or a tournament. Punjab Police was doing
PCB no favor like they do for actual and wannabe VIPs.
Another sad part of the whole affair was the fact that the then Governor Punjab had imposed
Governor Rule days before the arrival of the Sri Lankan team. Resultantly, a huge number of
police officers were shuffled in and out of Lahore. These included the then ASP Ali Rizvi and
the then SSP Security who had a wealth of experience in holding cricket matches in Lahore.
The worst part of this whole episode aside from the fact that no one was held responsible let
alone punished for criminal negligence which resulted in the demise of International cricket in
Pakistan. The media never bothered to report all of the above despite being in knowledge of
these lapses. They were all busy in optics and occupying air space with meaningless reporting of
trivial details for the sake of their ratings. No serious effort was made by media, judicial
commission and government to unearth these facts and in the end everyone got off scot free!