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Meher Mohammad Khalil, the Pakistani driver of the Sri Lankan team bus that came under fire from terrorists in Lahore last month, was honoured at a ceremony in Colombo today. Khalil had displayed great presence of mind to speed the bus towards the stadium to help the Sri Lankan players reach safety. As a token of appreciation, Khalil and his family were given a sponsored holiday along with a $21,800 reward.
Khalil thanked Sri Lanka for having toured Pakistan - the team agreed to visit after India pulled out in the wake of the Mumbai attacks last November. "I did it for Pakistan," Khalil said. "I did it for Sri Lanka, who were our guests. By God's help I did not feel scared at all and never thought of jumping out of the bus to save myself."
The horrific attack on March 3 resulted in five cricketers, including Mahela Jayawardene, the then captain, and Kumar Sangakkara, his deputy, receiving minor injuries. Ajantha Mendis, Thilan Samaraweera and Tharanga Paravitarana were also injured during the incident which killed six security men and two civilians.
Sangakkara said the players were lucky to have an "amazing" driver in Khalil. "We are here to thank one unarmed man for his courage, selflessness and quick thinking that enabled many of us to see another day," Sangakkara said. "We will always have a special place for you [Khalil] in our hearts."
"Khalil, you are our hero. We will always remember you with gratitude. Let's hope we are not put in that situation again," said Jayawardene.