Fallout of the Lahore attack March 4, 2009

Can't force teams to play here unless security improves - Butt

Cricinfo staff


Ijaz Butt: "It has earned a bad name to Pakistan in the international community. It looks grim for at least 6-12 months" © AFP
 

Ijaz Butt, the PCB chairman, has said it will be very difficult, following the Lahore terror strikes, to convince any team to tour Pakistan in the immediate future unless the security situation improves. He said the government, not the PCB, was answerable for the lapses that led to Tuesday's attack but, as far as he knew, the security provided to Sri Lanka was the same as for all touring teams.

"How can we force them to play in Pakistan if the security situation doesn't improve," Butt said. "It has earned Pakistan a bad name in the international community. It looks grim for at least six to twelve months. It was the most unfortunate thing that could have happened."

The shootout happened while the players were making their way to the Gaddafi Stadium for the third day of the second Test. Five Sri Lankan players and the assistant coach Paul Farbrace were injured when the terrorists targeted the team bus. The series - Pakistan's first at home in 16 months - was cancelled.

Asked if the security cover was sufficient, Butt said the government was answerable and not the PCB. "Nowhere in the world does the cricket board interfere in the security matters - it's the sole responsibility of the government," he said. "As far as I know, the security level was the same as it was in the past, when various teams toured Pakistan."

The most immediate fallout of the terror strikes is New Zealand's decision not to tour the country for a Test series later this year. New Zealand Cricket chief executive Justin Vaughan spoke of playing at a neutral venue and Butt clarified that negotiations were yet to begin.

"Let me make it clear that we have not received any information from New Zealand Cricket that the tour is called off," Butt said. "Of course the security situation (in Pakistan) will be reassessed in due course."

He sought to play down fears Pakistan would not host its matches in the 2011 World Cup, a tournament it is scheduled to share with India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. "There are still two years left until the World Cup 2011," he said. "We hope security improves by the time the big event comes nearer."

In the aftermath of the attacks, former captain Ramiz Raja appealed to the cricket world not to turn their backs on Pakistan at this critical moment.

"Obviously Tuesday's tragic events have pushed us back a fair bit," Raja told AFP. "But the entire world must realise that cricket is a way of life in Pakistan and it must not be taken away. It's easy to take cricket events out of Pakistan in a kneejerk reaction but Pakistan needs support and with gradual improvement in security teams must play here.

"They (Sri Lankans) were gracious enough to tour and during the one-day matches in January and then in the Tests I saw some banners which thanked the Sri Lankan team and it's tragic that these events happened."