Why do you think Pakistan is not a safe place to play cricket?

Published: March 3, 2017
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Karachi Kings celebrate a wicket. PHOTO: PSL

March 5, 2017

Lahore will be buzzing. It’s Pakistan Super League final day. The match is being played on home soil.

Apart from Zimbabwe last year, not one international team has been back since the Sri Lankans were shot at in 2009. That’s understandable. Who appreciates being shot at?

But Pakistan is not the only place that cricketers have been unwilling to travel to in recent times.

Australia chose not to go to Bangladesh. England were happy to, but Eoin Morgan was not. The 1996 World Cup gave walk-overs to Sri Lanka when the civil war was deemed too big a risk to gamble with.

Depending on how you define dangerous, Pakistan can be seen as an unsafe place.

According to 2012 UN murder stats (the latest credible ones I could find), Pakistan ranks 10th in regards to the quantum of murders per annum. 13,846 people lost their lives to violence.

For perspective, that’s equivalent to a near capacity crowd at a Hobart Hurricane’s match. Gone. Families broken.

It also means that there’s a similar amount of arsehats walking the streets of Pakistan ready and willing to take a life.

It is unfathomable and hard to reconcile with.

But the Pakistani government is doing everything in its power to ensure the PSL Final is safe for everyone.

Tickets have been pre-sold reducing the likelihood of long queues on game day. Locals need to bring their national ID cards and submit to a frisk search and metal detectors. Players and officials will have VIP state security protection, including at the hotels and while in transit. Fences. Checkpoints. The army.

None of this is foolproof, but it is about as good as it could possibly be.

Many foreign born players have already stated they won’t travel to Lahore to play the final. They are turning down a big cash bonus that is on offer just to turn up. They don’t feel safe.

It is hard to call someone out for not travelling if they don’t feel safe.

According to those same 2012 UN murder stats, more people were murdered in the US than Pakistan. 14,827 to be exact.

Following the same logic as above, there are more people walking the streets of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles who are willing to shoot you than in Pakistan.

White guys. With guns.

Yet many of us dream about studying in the US or perhaps sending our children to do the same. Perhaps a holiday to Disneyland.

Do you feel unsafe doing that? Should you?

The US have a continuum of mass murders at schools. Planes flown into buildings including secure government locations like the Pentagon. Bombs being exploded at Olympic venues and marathons. People stabbed in muggings.

Despite what the star spangled bannered patriots might lead you to believe, this my friends is the reality of the US.

It is true to say that Pakistan is in many ways not that much different. For example, instead of Olympic venues being bombed, it is the local market.

Importantly in this war of perception, it’s not white guys doing the damage.

It’s Muslims.

Is this the heart of the matter? Perhaps this is this a debate we are too ashamed to have? Maybe ashamed is the wrong word. Scared may be a better term. No one wants to be labelled a racist for simply exploring facts.

But logically, for the professional cricketer, is it seriously feasible to contend that Pakistan is currently safer than the US? Who would be stupid enough to even flout that concept for exploration?

It could be argued that it is easier for a sportsperson to be a target in the US than in Pakistan. Limited security at the gate. A culture and laws that support the carriage of weapons. It’s a shocking thought, but if one was so driven, taking out a player or exploding a bomb at Yankee Stadium is a much easier proposition than at Gaddafi Stadium.

Irrespective, it is an individual’s right to decline putting themselves somewhere that they feel unsafe. In the end, playing cricket it is only a job.

For the record, the UN reports that India has the second highest rate of murders in the world with over 40,000 per year. That’s more people than can fit into Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium.

India also has bombings. It has shootings. It has stabbings. More than in Pakistan. Way more. More than double.

Yet as a cricket collective we are happy to play there. We walk the streets there. We dine in its restaurants.

It isn’t quite logical, is it?

Some will argue that the population in the US and India is bigger than in Pakistan. But what does that matter? It is clear that if you are in those “safer” countries, that there are more people in the populous willing to take a life, and that do take a life, than in Pakistan.

But if flying in, sleeping one night in a heavily guarded hotel, playing a game and flying out, under all that VIP security doesn’t make you feel safe, then what will? What chance does Pakistan ever have of hosting home games again if we let the subjective override the objective? If no one wants to take the first step. If government security guarantees are not enough?

I feel for Pakistan cricket fans for they have little hope of witnessing the best in the world on home soil while these attitudes and biases remain.

Perhaps the ultimate test is to ask myself “would I visit the PSL Final in Lahore”?

Yes I would. A definitive “Yes”.

Anyone got a ticket for me?

This post originally appeared here.

Dennis Freedman

Dennis Freedman

The author is the host of the show 'Can't Bowl Can't Throw Cricket Show' which is heard nationally around Australia every Tuesday evening on EON Sports Radio. He tweets on @DennisCricket_

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Fahim

    If I remember correctly, cricket gound is the target. Street violence has no comparison with it.Recommend

  • Lt Col Imtiaz Alam(retd)

    No, not at all. Some are living in a Fool’s Paradise. Priorities must be clear. A day will come In Sha Allah when we will not need a plethora of security.Recommend

  • kiani

    very well written article. completely agree with it.Recommend

  • Rohan

    This piece reeks of desperation and confirms to the bogus ideology of Pakistan by bashing India.Pakistan is unsafe because its the cradle of jihadis as it gives a free ride to un designated banned terrorists who spew hate and advocate terrorism Recommend

  • Yogi Berra

    Wht this chap had to bring US and India in the article? He wants to go to Pakistan then Go. Simple. don’t try to be extra smart.Recommend

  • Test Test

    Pretty lame article actually. The author is combining murder shootings in the US with bombings in Pakistan. Can the author talk about the murder stats in Pakistan and combine the two? Also anyone would say that the US is far more secure than Pakistan. Similarly India is more secure than Pakistan. Can the author talk about which cricket team got shot at in India? Can the author talk which sports team is shot out in US? Why would Pakistanis want to run out to the US and other western countries if its so safe? Why would Pakistan want to have 1000s of soldiers, police and god knows what else to host a simple match if its safe? This looks like one of those post truth or alternative facts articles as is now popular.Recommend

  • Muhammad Waqar

    And I remember correctly, Boston Marathon was the target and the bomber successfully done his job.Recommend

  • whatever

    Lets talk about numbers, 3 in 10 is 30 percent and 6 in 100 is 6 percent. Numbers donot lie.Recommend

  • FAZ

    People visited US after Boston Marathon bombing. Its all about money and being racist. Its Ok. Push us against the wall. Germans were once pushed too. Hitler was the result. You guys want a Hitler to be born in Pakistan too? Nuclear Pakistan that is..Recommend

  • Parvez

    You are comparing apples with oranges……normal crime ( witnessed in all societies around the world, some more and done less ) and a terrorist motivated attack, two completely different animals. Recommend

  • Nana

    Really? Or hearsay Indian whipped up propaganda? Think. Typical Indian showing why they are called ‘most ignorant nation on earth.’Recommend

  • Rajiv

    Muslims in general and Pakistanis in particular are very arrogant people

    you think you are superior to everybody else, no you are not.
    Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    As a Pakistani I am embarrassed to read this defense. These are false equivalencies. Look, it’s not safe in Pakistan. How many bombings are taking place in the United Sates? How many times do Americans get messages on their phones a week from their loved ones to rush the f home. As a Pakistani, I don’t feel safe. As a Pakistani, I don’t feel comfortable inviting my foreign friends because they will be targeted.

    You are making comparisons to India. In India, foreigners walk the streets in relative safety and comfort. In Pakistan, it would be impossible for sportsman to do that without heavy security.

    Finally, let’s not forget what happened to the Sri Lankan team’s bus during their tour. It came under fire leaving cricketers and officials traumatized and policemen dead. When Zimbabwe toured, there was an attack that left a policemen dead.

    How many international sporting events in India or USA are targeted with such regularity.

    The problem with some Pakistanis is that they’ve got their head stuck under the sand. Please don’t enable them. This blog suffers from regressive-left’ism.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Boston Bombers were Muslims. Pakistan is 97% Muslim. Since 1947, Pakistan funded non state terrorists, first state funded and armed Kabils who killed and raped Kashmiris, in 1965 state owned terrorists attacked Kashmiris, in 1971 both uniformed terrorists and Islamic terrorists killed 3 Million Bangalis and gang raped 400K women, since 1973 Pakistan has been sending terrorists into Afghanistan and since 1978 into India. Pakistani Islamic terrorists killed nearly 150K Indians so far and 2 Million Afghans.Recommend

  • rationalist

    Boston bombers were not targeting visiting sports teams. Besides, while the USA has some Islamic terrorists wishing to do harm, they are not present in the millions, at least as of yet.

    Pakistan is the epicenter of terrorism and unlike the US, terrorism is officially supported by the Pakistani Establishment.Recommend

  • Haashim Saeed

    And I also remember correctly when the Mumbai bombings happened, English team felt very secure there. So secure that they played a series there. Not one match, A WHOLE SERIESRecommend