Suicide attack foiled in Lahore, cricket series to continue



 A blast that took place near Gaddafi Stadium here during a One-Day International (ODI) between Pakistan and Zimbabwe was confirmed as a suicide attack by Pakistani authorities, who said a sub-inspector and a civilian lost their lives.

However, a Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) official confirmed that the third and final ODI of the ongoing series will be played on Sunday according to schedule.

Pakistan Information and Broadcasting Minister Parveiz Rashid said on Saturday that an attempt to attack the stadium on Friday was foiled by the police official, who lost his life while trying to stop a suicide bomber near Kalma Chowk, adding that six people were wounded in the incident, Dawn reported.

Rashid praised the Pakistan Broadcasters Association for "covering up" the news while the cricket match was going on so as not to spread panic as there were over 20,000 spectators in the stadium.

The media had at first reported an explosion close to the ground but reports were taken off air after it was asserted that the explosion was caused by an electricity transformer.

Later, the provincial inspector general of operations said two people -- Sub-Inspector Abdul Majeed and a civilian Rizwan -- were killed in the blast. He added that the blast happened in a rickshaw and that forensic samples had been collected from the site to determine the nature of the explosion.

The blast occurred at 9 p.m. when the day-night match was under way. The match continued uninterrupted and was won by Pakistan, who sealed the series 2-0.

The incident took place beside a checkpost for public entry to the ground, near the outermost ring of the three-tier security at Nishtar Park complex on Ferozpur road, about 800 metres from the stadium. The blast was audible to those in the ground and even inside the enclosed press box.

After the blast, paramilitary forces guarding the first layer cordoned off the area. Within 30 minutes, the entire area in a radius of two km was locked down and closed for general traffic.

At least 15 suspects were taken into custody by Pakistan Rangers and police during operations in various areas of Karachi early on Saturday.

Following the blast, there were reports claiming that the cricket series could be in trouble. But ESPNcricinfo quoted a PCB spokesperson as saying "the incident happened away from the main premises and nothing is affected".

The official added that "the tour will go ahead as planned and the Zimbabwe team will continue with their usual activities on Saturday, though they are not training. They will play the third match on Sunday and subsequently will fly back in the wee hours of Monday".

On March 3, 2009, gunmen had ambushed the vehicles transporting Sri Lankan cricketers and match officials to the Gaddafi Stadium on the third day of a Test match.

Several players were injured while security personnel and civilians were killed. As a result, the match was abandoned and the tour called off, rendering the country untenable as an international cricket venue for six years.

Ever since, Pakistan have had to play their home matches at offshore venues, primarily the United Arab Emirates, as the International Cricket Council (ICC) and other full members considered the country unsafe. - IANS