Can we please rename Gaddafi Stadium now?
It is difficult for a Karachiite to admit, but there is no more iconic a cricket ground in Pakistan than a certain large, red-brick stadium in Lahore. Gaddafi Stadium is the home of the Pakistan Cricket Board and the site of the final of the 1996 World Cup for a reason: it is simply the best that Pakistan cricket has to offer. So why is it named after a brutal Arab dictator?
It was not always so. When the stadium first opened its doors in 1959, it was simply known as Lahore Stadium, which makes sense since it is a stadium that happens to be in Lahore.
It was renamed in 1974 after the brotherly love-fest in Lahore when then-Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto played host to the heads of most Muslim countries at the second summit meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Conference. Bhutto had the stadium renamed after the Libyan autocrat (yes, he was around even back then), though the reason remains vague.
So let’s chalk it up to Bhutto’s youthful high spirits. Here is what I think happened. Bhutto was probably having a nice game of poker with Qaddafi, beating him handily, but he’s the host so he has to be nice to his guests. So he says to the colonel:
“Cheer up, old chum! I’ll name a stadium after you! What do they play there? Cricket! What, you’ve never heard of the sport? That’s ok. It’s massive, which is the point.”
Regardless of what the reason was then, why did we continue to call it Gaddafi Stadium?
Did we not feel embarrassed to invite the English team to play in a stadium named after the man responsible for the bombing over Lockerbie? (Stupid question: the PCB feels no embarrassment.)
We have tolerated this ridiculous name now for about 37 years. As we watch the scenes of horrific violence visited by the madman upon the Libyan people, let us at least do them the courtesy of removing their tormentor’s name from our biggest stadium.
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