Peace Wins: Conduct of Cricket Match in North Waziristan

Report by: Asif Sohail

After determined and successful conclusion of Pakistan Army’s Operation Zarb-e-Azb against terrorists in North Waziristan and ongoing successful Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad, it became imperative to demonstrate before the world that peace has been restored and the government’s writ has been established in the troubled areas. By organizing a T20 match in Miranshah, Pakistan Army has conveyed a message to the entire world that it is determined to bring international sports back to Pakistan.

Beginning of normal sports activity was due after the clearance of the area from mines and IEDs etc. left by the terrorists in North Waziristan. On instructions of the COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) arranged a T20 Cricket match Peace Cup 2017 between Pakistan XI and UK Media XI. ISPR invited UK Media XI which was already on a visit to Pakistan to play the match. The UK Media XI comprised of journalists, lawyers, businessmen and academicians. Pakistan Cricket Board also joined in Army’s efforts and released its players to form Pakistan XI. Renowned former and current cricketers including Inzamam-Ul-Haq, Younis Khan, Shahid Afridi, Kamran Akmal, Yasir Hameed, Junaid Khan, Umer Gul, Mushtaq Ahmed, Riaz Afridi, Wajahatullah Wasti and couple of others were part of the Pakistan XI. The match was played in the newly built picturesque Younis Khan Stadium, Miranshah on September 21. The British team was led by Daily Mail journalist Peter Oborne while Inzamam-Ul-Haq led Pakistani XI.

COAS’ decision was hailed by every passionate follower of the game and general public alike. Pakistan has been deprived of international cricket after the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore in March 2009. However, Army took a bold initiative and invited Australian Army cricket team to play friendly matches in Pakistan in 2016. These matches were played in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Gujranwala and other cities. They enjoyed their tour thoroughly and in Lahore the Australian players danced on the beat of the drums and showed their solidarity with Pakistanis; a great sports loving nation. Similarly, holding of the PSL final and three ODIs against the World XI in the Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore, wasn’t possible without the security cover provided by Pakistan Armed Forces. Despite the match being organized at short notice, it was telecasted live by Pakistan television and thousands of jubilant tribesmen from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and schoolboys gathered to watch the match in the stadium. Their presence in the stadium spread an unequivocal message across the globe that Pakistan Army’s Operation Zarb-e-Azb and Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad has not only restored confidence of the people living in the tribal areas but also provided them a healthy activity to enjoy and rejoice in a peaceful environment. The participation of the British players in the match also reflected their confidence in their hosts, Pakistan Army.

Though the visitors lost an entertaining T20 match, they won the hearts of locals who came to watch the match in large numbers. It was a day of pomp and ceremony which was presided over by Commander Peshawar Corps Lt Gen Nazir Butt and Governor Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Iqbal Zafar Jhagra. National anthems were played, flags waved and dances performed. The players from UK amply expressed their zeal and fervor on this occasion. “It is a unique experience of being flown in a military helicopter and then playing with international stars,” said opening UK batsman Crispin Blunt who is also a Conservative member of the British Parliament and former chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. “It’s been a great, exciting, historic day with British and Pakistani flags flying side by side. And it is wonderful that peace has returned to Waziristan,” said UK captain Peter Oborne. He added, “On this day we must also remember all the soldiers and civilians who died to make this peace possible.”

Organizing Peace Cup match in Miranshah which was once the hub of terrorist activities reflects Pakistan Army’s unflinching resolve and determination to restore peace in Pakistan. “This place used to be the hub of terror,” said Lt Gen Butt. “A few years ago the children could not go to school. Today they have an opportunity to study and secure their future.” The match has spread a strong message across the globe that peace has indeed been restored not only in FATA but also across the entire country.

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