Pakistan offers prayers, flowers and a hope for the future
The first anniversary of the attack on the buses of the Sri Lankan cricket team and match officials in Lahore has been marked by ceremonies and tributes to those who were killed and the hope that Pakistan will regain its status as an international cricket venue.
Rana Sanaullah, the police and law minister of Punjab province, laid wreaths at the scene of the attack in Liberty Square, in memory of the six policemen and two civilians who died; PCB officials and players are scheduled to also hold a memorial ceremony, lay flowers and observe a minute's silence.
"It was tragic and shook our cricket," Wasim Bari, the PCB's chief operating officer, told AFP. "We must remember all those who gave their lives to save the Sri Lankan cricketers."
Bari, though, hoped for a better future. "We hope that as ground realities change, things will improve and international cricket will be revived in Pakistan. For the sake of millions of people who love the game of cricket, international events will come back to Pakistan. I sincerely hope this is not very far."
The Sri Lankan players were on their way to the Gadaffi Stadium for the third day's play in the second Test when terrorists opened fire and hurled grenades at their bus. Seven players and assistant coach Paul Farbrace were injured and eight Pakistanis - security personnel, the driver of the match-officials bus - were killed. The match was abandoned and the Sri Lankan team flew home, but the bigger consequence was the end of Pakistan being a host for international matches in the near future. The ICC moved the 2009 Champions Trophy out of the country and stripped Pakistan of its quota of matches for the 2011 World Cup.
Former Pakistan captain Ramiz Raja spoke on those consequences of the attack but also mentioned the resilience of Pakistan cricket. "Pakistan is suffering not only in cricket but also in other sports as we have not been able to host any international sporting event since then," he said. "But I salute Pakistani fans for keeping the interest in cricket alive, despite having no matches."
Pakistan have been forced to play their home series in United Arab Emirates and New Zealand, the most recent being the two Twenty20 internationals against England in Dubai in February. They are also due to 'host' Australia, who haven' t toured Paksitan since 1998, in two Twenty20 matches and two Tests in England later this year.