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International security experts wish PSL well, remain cautious

By Aamir Ghauri
March 07, 2019

ISLAMABAD: International security experts have voiced concerns that Pakistan needs to be extra vigilant as its star sporting extravaganza -- Pakistan Super League -- arrives in Karachi on Saturday for the final stages of the tournament.

Talking privately to The News and wanting to remain anonymous, they wished the PSL-4 well and hoped the security arrangement are “planned well” to brick wall any untoward incident. When asked if there exists a specific threat, they replied, “may be”. They wanted their concerns be relayed to the Pakistan Cricket Board.

Local law enforcers are already busy making sure all steps are in place to deliver a safe and secure tournament. Rangers and police are busy combing suspect areas in and around the National Stadium and Jinnah Airport. Residential towers rental concerns have been visited in joint operations during which many known felons and villains have been temporarily detained. “These operations can at best be described as deterrent exercise to send a message that law enforcers are watchful and attempt at felony would not be allowed,” said an official.

Sindh Police chief, Dr Kaleem Imam headed a joint meeting recently with the senior officers from the Sindh Police, Special Branch, Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) and Traffic Police to review the contingency plan put in place to ensure the mega sporting event is delivered safely.

Promising world class security to the cricketers, foreigners and visitors arriving in Pakistan’s only megapolis for the sporting event, IG Imam directed strict monitoring of all corridors from the airport to the hotel and to the stadium. “Effective and well-coordinated monitoring should be ensured from the command and control centre set up at the Central Police Office in absolute accordance with the contingency plan,” he had said after the meeting.

Special safe houses have been set up to hold and interrogate troublemakers if need arises and special sanctuaries have been designated to shift the players if a security situation is created. Special checkpoints have already been created on all major roads leading to the venue and the hotels where the players would be housed. During the next few days, Rangers and Police would be carrying out extraordinary checking of vehicles so drivers are specially requested to keep all relevant paperwork like personal ID, driving licences, registration documents etc. handy to avoid unnecessary discomfort.

As per the information provided by the law enforcement agencies, there are 7,720 policemen who have been assigned duty in the east zone and 2,260 others would be on guard in the south zone. The Special Security Unit’s 565 personnel and 1,780 traffic policemen would be on duty as well. Special Branch would deploy 788 personnel for security of the matches. A total of 13,112 officers and jawans have been assigned duties for the security of PSL matches, police said.

Briefing media, IG Karachi, Dr Amir Sheikh said there would be five-layered security net laid out for the tournament with 50 SSP’s, 700 lady police officials and 250 commandos apart from setting up four security checkpoints and installing multiple CCTV cameras.

The traffic would be diverted away from the venue three hours ahead of the match. The roads leading from Hassan Square, Karsaz and Dalmia would remain blocked during the match except for the routes leading to hospitals on the Stadium road. Five parking spots have been reserved for the visitors who would be escorted from the parking lots to the stadium in 500 operational shuttles.

Advising fans and public to secure details of alternative traffic routes and parking lots in advance, the IG said: “Spectators will have to arrive at the stadium two hours ahead of the game, after which the gates of the stadium will be closed. No one is allowed to carry eatables from outside the venue.”

Though security experts, former cricketers and game enthusiasts are shying away from openly commenting on the need of heightened security needed for the event, many have shared with The News their fears and concerns for Pakistan Super League (PSL) matches at a time when tensions are record high for Pakistan-India in decades. They fear that a repeat of 2009 Sri Lanka bus attack like situation could push Pakistan cricket to a “point of no return”.

Speaking to The News’ Islamabad-based sports correspondent, Abdul Mohi Shah, a former Test cricketer questioned the logic of PCB’s decision of bringing PSL’s last leg matches to Pakistan in present circumstances. “Every Pakistani was happy when the PCB decided last year to hold PSL-4’s last eight matches in Pakistan. Since then a lot has changed. The country is facing a war-like situation. The better sense should have prevailed in such circumstances. The Board should have retained the UAE at the venue for the last leg matches instead of providing an opportunity to those who leave no stone unturned to tarnish Pakistan’s image and destroy the game for us.”