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Thursday, March 5 2009
By Abid Hussain

As the tragic incident in Lahore unfolded in front of our eyes on Tuesday morning, the question lurked in the minds of most Pakistanis: “Where do we go from here?”

Cricket remains the most popular sport in the country and it has often been cited as the one factor which can unite our nation. Now with such a horrific incident to our credit and a history of security related concerns that have plagued our nation since 9/11, the future looks rather bleak for the sport.

While former cricket greats have condemned the incident, they have also predicted a dark future for the game in country. “It is a great tragedy. Something like this should never have happened. We talk about foreign teams being provided top security but after what happened today I don’t see any team coming to Pakistan for a while,” Waqar Younis, former Pakistan captain said.

Imran Khan, the premier all-rounder from the country has been quoted in the past as saying: “Countries should come to Pakistan to play cricket as terrorists have never targeted sportsmen.” After what happened in Lahore, however, the great Khan had no option but to express doubts about the future of cricket in the country. “Foreign teams have already been refusing to tour us and this will hurt Pakistan cricket badly. I don’t know what will happen to the World Cup 2011. It is tough to say anything right now,” he said.

Unfortunately, the biggest stakeholders, the common fans, have been left high and dry. Just when cricket was being revived in the country with immense help from the Sri Lankan cricket team and performances on the field, fans have had to endure yet another tragedy.

“In the space of three years, we have hit rock bottom. After the Oval 2006 crisis Pakistan cricket has been in a free fall. Now this incident has sealed our fate for the next decade at least,” said Raheel, a disgruntled cricket fan.

Commentators on the leading cricket website also shared their grief. “A very sad event. No one in their right mind would tour Pakistan now. The PCB has no choice now. If Pakistan wants to play cricket, sadly it will not be at home for a long, long time,” a reader, Hashaam, commented on the website.

A large number foreign cricket fans also commented and expressed support and solidarity with Pakistan and the policemen who lost their lives.

“It was a sad thing to happen. Pakistani security men who gave their lives should not be forgotten. It may look like the end, but it is not. Cricket should move ahead. The Pakistani team should carry on playing. Neutral venues first but slowly and surely bring cricket back home however long it takes,” PS Sidhu remarked.

Another blogger in Australia predicted: “This is possibly the end of cricket being played in Pakistan for a foreseeable future unless the political and security situation stabilises.”

It seems quite obvious that Pakistan will not be able to host any international sporting event, let alone cricket, for a good number of years. Despite assurances from the government to provide VVIP protection to teams, this lapse in security has rendered those promises meaningless.

What remains to be seen is how the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and other authorities deal with the current scenario and the strategy they devise for the future of the team. Fans, however, have already started making plans. Yusuf, a die hard cricket fan said: “I will now plan my vacations to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) because that is where Pakistan will play ‘home’ matches for the next few years.”