Under Fire: Pictorials of Sri Lanka’s Cricket Team facing Duress at Lahore, 3 March 2009

Michael Roberts …. aided by varied cameramen mostly unnamed

The stark reality of near-death and its trauma are reflected in the aftermath by Eranga Jayawardena’s image of Mahela and his wife at Katunayake Airport when the team arrived safely on 3rd March 2009 ….. What follows below is a sequence of dramatic images depicting the scenario in Lahore that preceded and precipitated this moment (several courtesy of AFP in Hong Kong)

 One sees here two of the [twelve]  jihadist attackers in action at Liberty Square — an image from afar … The irony of such an event at a “Liberty Square” with a Gaddafi Stadium not far away, may amuse readers. There was no amusement for the six policemen, the mini-van driver d another civilian who were killed …….or for their relatives. While much of the media accounts in English honed in on the danger to the Sri Lankan cricketers, it was the body of umpires and officials in the mini-van following the team bus that were in dire straits –because the civilian van driver died on the spot. Thus, the mini-van occupants were dead ducks if the attackers had chosen to close-in. This is surely one of the intriguing unanswered questions: why did the Islamic ‘çommando’ team hold off when they had the occupants of the mini-van (Taufel, Davis, Broad, Manuel, Nadeem Ghauri, Abdul Sami and the seriously wounded umpire Ahsan Raza) at their mercy? There are, I stress, a whole suite of unanswered questions.

 Bloodied seat of the mini-van driver who died then

  A corpse is carried away

  Pakistan policemen — unarmed, tense and apprehensive at Gaddafi Stadium after the gunfire and attack at some distance from the grounds

  Thilan Samaraweera, the most seriously injured cricketer in ambulance on way to hospital with Lal Thamel in attendance. I gather Samaraweera and Paranavithan were hit by shrapnel or ricocheting bullets 

 Tharanga Paranavitana with shrapnel wound


The Sri Lankan squad prepare to fly to airport from the Stadium as the Test is aborted …. “with the advertisement “Celebrating A Century of Cricket” looming behind them in ironic twist

Some details are provided in Michael Roberts: “Cricket under Siege: The Lahore Attack, 3 March 2009,” in Roberts,  Incursions & Excursions in and around Sri Lankan Cricket, Colombo, Vijitha Yapa Publications, 2011, pp. 139-63…. ISBN 978 955 53198 0 5


A = How is it that the Pakistani team was late so that the Sri Lankan team’s bus left the same hotel on it sown with only half the protective convoy?Was this a haphazard Asian type of unpunctuality? Or was it contrived by those planning the assault?

B= How is it that the bus conductor (normally attached to every tour bus) was not present that morning? …… a question raised by Brendon Kuruppu when describing the vents in lucid detaila

C = How was it that the RPG missile launched at the bus missed its target:? Poor aim? or deliberate miss?

D = Why didn’t the assault team advance and finish off the officials who were pinned down in the stationary mini-van –literally siting ducks?

E = Was the assault the outcome of the recent political stoush which had seen the provincial government in Lahore displaced by central government action?

F = how is that the Pakistani authorities do not seem to have identified any one of the 12 men who engaged in this action? …. and have periodically proclaimed other “terrorists’  whom they captured or killed in action to be those responsible –not once but on several occasions/

G = Why have Pakistani journalists writing in English failed to provide incisive clarification of this event  … and remarked on those likely to have been responsible? Ineptness or conspiratorial silence?

NOTA BENE: The presentation of this short illustrative account is not — repeat not –intended to discourage the impending Sri Lankan cricket tour of Pakistan.  Pakistan cricket needs every dose of support they can receive. The present situation in Pakistan must be appraised by agencies with uncluttered minds and without Orientalist attitudes.

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