The England cricket team landed in Karachi on Thursday on their first tour of Pakistan in 17 years – a lengthy absence due to security fears. England last played in Pakistan in 2005 and were due to visit last year until withdrawing at short notice after New Zealand also canceled a tour due to security concerns. The move infuriated the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), desperate to restore its security reputation, which it called “disrespectful”.
After a deadly attack in 2009 by terrorists on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore, Pakistan was forced to play international matches in neutral venues such as the UAE, where they hosted England for series in 2012 and 2015.
Over the past five years, international cricket has gradually returned to Pakistan and earlier this year Australia toured successfully for the first time in nearly a quarter of a century.
The PCB said the Australia series had “demonstrated our event planning and operational skills” and expressed confidence that the games in England will also be safe.
On match days, the roads between the England team hotel and the Karachi National Stadium will be closed and under armed guard.
A helicopter will follow their journey and shops and offices overlooking the stadium will be closed.
The last time Britain traveled through Pakistan, the government was fighting a desperate battle with terrorists, including its own Taliban domestic branch.
The security situation has improved greatly since then, but the number of attacks has increased since the Taliban returned to power in neighboring Afghanistan.
In March, an ISIS suicide bomber attacked a minority Shia mosque in the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing 64 in the deadliest terror attack since 2018.
Most of the violence is confined to the porous border regions between Pakistan and Afghanistan, which has long been a hive of terrorism.
Rain won’t stop the game
However, Karachi and Lahore have recently been the target of terrorist attacks by Baloch. In April, four people – including three Chinese nationals – were killed in Karachi.
The tour comes as Pakistan grapples with catastrophic flooding that has flooded nearly a third of the country and affected at least 33 million people.
Last month, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said the team was “desperate” to play despite the humanitarian disaster in Pakistan.
“I think hopefully we will have a positive impact on what has been a pretty harrowing time for the people of that country,” said men’s cricket director Rob Key.
The 19-man England squad, captained by Jos Buttler, will play seven Twenty20 matches against Pakistan in Karachi and Lahore from September 20 to October 2, as both teams prepare for next month’s T20 World Cup in Australia.
England will return in December to play three five-day Test matches.
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