South Africa in Pakistan, 2003-04 October 7, 2003

Political murder prompts greater security for SA squad

Wisden Cricinfo staff

The already high security for the South African cricketers was further reinforced after the assassination of a religious leader prompted violent riots, with fears that the South African team could be targeted. Azam Tariq, a Sunni extremist leader and an MP, was murdered on Monday in Islamabad, an incident which has inflamed tensions between the Sunni and Shi'ite Muslim sects, especially in cities like Faisalabad where sectarian rivalries exist. South Africa are currently in Faisalabad to play the third one-day international.

According to an AFP report, Sunni mobs rampaged through Jhang, Tariq's hometown, where five Shi'ites were stabbed and their mosque set on fire, and in Islamabad, where a man was killed when a cinema was set alight by mourners at Tariq's funeral. Around 3000 policemen and 150 commandos were deployed in and around Faisalabad's Iqbal Stadium, where the ODI was being played, and along roads leading to the ground.

"We have alerted police to avert any possible reaction on the incident," Arif Rahim, the chairman of the series organising committee, told AFP. "We have electronic gates at all nine entrances to the stadium to scan all spectators before they enter." Two commandos were posted outside both teams' dressing-rooms. The South African team management refused to comment on the situation, saying that they were following the advice of their own security personnel travelling with the squad.

South Africa initially cancelled their tour citing security worries after a bomnb-blast in Karachi, and only went ahead with a shortened trip after a revised itinerary was drawn up, in which the matches scheduled at Karachi and Peshawar - considered high-risk venues by South Africa - were shifted to safer venues.