By Asif Suhail
After a determined and successful conclusion of Pakistan Army’s Zarb-e-Azb Operation against terrorists in North Wazirastan it had become imperative to demonstrate before the world that peace has been restored and the government writ established in the troubled areas.
Beginning of normal sports activities were due after the clearance of mines and other fatal installations laid by the terrorists in North Wazirastan. Pakistan Army wasted no time to organize a T-20 match in Miranshah, an important city of Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA).
On Special instructions of the COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa, as a Gift to brave Pakistanis of FATA, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) arranged a T20 Cricket match Peace Cup 2017 between Pakistan XI and UK Media XI.
On Special instructions of the COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa, as a Gift to brave Pakistanis of FATA, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) arranged a T20 Cricket match Peace Cup 2017 between Pakistan XI and UK Media XI
The ISPR invited UK Media XI which was already on Pakistan visit to play the much needed match. The UK Media XI comprised of journalists, lawyers, businessmen and academics
Pakistan Cricket Board also joined in Army’s efforts and released its players and employees to form a Pakistan XI. Renowned former and current cricketers including Inzamam-ul-Haq, Younis Khan, Shahid Afridi, Kamran Akmal, Yasir Hameed, Junaid Khan, Umar Gul, Mushtaq Ahmed, Riaz Afridi, Wajahatullah Wasti and couple of others were part of the Pakistan XI.
The match was played in the newly built picturesque Younis Khan Stadium on 21st September. The British team was led by Daily Mail journalist Peter Oborne while Inzamam-ul-Haq led the Pakistani XI.
COAS’s decision was hailed by every passionate follower of the Game of Gentleman and general public alike. Pakistan has been deprived of International Cicket after the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore in March 2009.
However, Army took a bold initiative and invited Australian Army cricket team to play friendly matches in Pakistan in 2016. These matches were played in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Gujranwala and other cities. They enjoyed their tour thoroughly and in Lahore the Australian players danced on the beat of the Drums showing solidarity with Pakistanis, a great sports loving nation.
We all know that both the Federal and Punjab governments were indecisive about holding of the PSL final in Lahore but Gen Bajwa’s public assurance to provide security for the final boosted their confidence as well as of the PCB.
Similarly holding of three ODI’s against the World XI in the Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore wasn’t possible without the security cover provided by the Pakistan Army.
Despite the match at Miranshah was organized at short notice and it was also live televised by Pakistan television yet thousands of jubilant tribesmen as well as people from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and schoolboys gathered to watch the match in the Stadium. Their presence spread an unequivocal message across the globe that the area which was once a hub of terrorist activities has been turned into a Cricket Hub.
The Army has vividly conveyed a loud and clear message to the entire world that it will back any international sporting activity on the Pakistan soil. Unlike the government that almost declined to act upon National Action Plan, the PCB should come forward and include Younis Khan Stadium, Miranshah in its domestic venues and organize First Class matches there from next year
The crowd had only watched their favourite players on television screen but seeing them live was an exciting experience for them. They cheered, danced and applauded every shot executed across and over the ropes.
The participation of the British players in the match also reflected their confidence on their hosts, the Pakistan Army. Though the visitors lost an entertaining T20 match, they won the hearts of locals who came to watch the match in large numbers.
For the UK side the match was a big step up. Some of the team members were more used to village or club cricket rather than playing on the international stage. “It is a surreal experience for a club cricketer to find himself being flown in by helicopter and then playing with international stars,” said opening UK batsman Crispin Blunt who is a Conservative Member of the British parliament and former chair of the Foreign Affairs select committee.
“It’s been a great, exciting, historic day with British and Pakistani flags flying side by side. And it is wonderful that peace has returned to Waziristan,” said UK captain Peter Oborne. He added that “as well as honouring that we must remember all the civilians who died to make this peace possible.”
It was a day of pomp and ceremony which was presided over by Peshawar Corps Commander Lt. Gen Nazir Butt and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra. National anthems were played, flags waved and dances performed.
Organizing Peace Cup match in Miranshah, which was once hub of the terrorist, reflects Pakistan Army’s unflinching resolve and determination to defend their homeland. Lt-Gen Nazir Butt rightly said on the occasion:
“This place used to be the hub of global terror inside Pakistan and out. A few years ago the children could not go to school. Today they have an opportunity to study and secure their future.” The Match has spread a strong message across the globe that Pakistanis are capable to look after their guests and provide them fool proof security.
The Army has vividly conveyed a loud and clear message to the entire world that it will back any international sporting activity on the Pakistan soil. Unlike the government that almost declined to act upon National Action Plan, the PCB should come forward and include Younis Khan Stadium, Miranshah in its domestic venues and organize First Class matches there from next year.
In recent years we have observed FATA producing talented cricketers, particularly fast bowlers. Giving Miranshah first class status would help the PCB to hone local talent for international exposure.