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Troubled Pakistan cheers World Cup victory

cricket Updated: Jun 22, 2009 12:30 IST

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Troubled but cricket-crazy Pakistan celebrated on Monday victory in the Twenty20 World Cup 3-½ months after an attack on the Sri Lankan team appeared to drive a nail into the coffin of Pakistani cricket.

Pakistan beat Sri Lanka in the final at Lord's in London on Sunday to win its first major trophy since former captain Imran Khan's side won the 1992 50-over World Cup.

"It's time to cheer," said Sajid Bhanji, a dealer at stock brokers Arif Habib Ltd in Karachi.

His comments were echoed by the market, with the benchmark Karachi Stock Exchange 100-shared index up 0.66 pct by 11 am (0500 GMT).

"We've had bad news all around for quite some time now and this victory has definitely resulted in a feel-good effect," said Bhanji.

"The market is all about sentiment and this has definitely helped change the mood, which was visible in the positive opening."

The KSE-100 index has gained about 21 per cent this year, after a 58.3 per cent drop in 2008. But it is trading about 12 per cent lower than the highest level set this year.

Pakistan is beset by problems with the military battling an expanding Taliban insurgency in the northwest which has forced nearly 2 million people from their homes.

The militants have responded with a string of bomb attacks and security has never been tighter in towns and cities.

A March 3 attack by gunmen on Sri Lanka's team as it was being driven to a stadium for a match in the city of Lahore raised fears for the future of the game in Pakistan.

Seven Pakistanis, including six police guards and the driver of a Sri Lankan team bus, were killed in the militant ambush. Six of the Sri Lankans and two team officials were wounded.

With foreign teams refusing to visit, commentators mourned what some saw as the death of Pakistani cricket.

Pakistan Zindabad!

As well as the dire security situation, Pakistan has been hit by economic problems and had to be bailed out by a $7.6 billion International Monetary Fund loan last November.

But all that was forgotten on Sunday evening when across the the country, people poured onto the streets to celebrate moments after Pakistan clinched victory.

People danced, beat drums and set off fireworks while some fired their guns into the air in celebration.

"We as a nation have gone through so much recently that we needed something desperately to cheer us up. I think this win has given us that," said pharmaceutical company executive Mansoor Khan.

People displaced by the fighting in the northwest did not miss out on the fun. Television stations set up big screens in tent camps so everyone could watch Pakistan's triumph.

"What a match. A victory that makes the nation so proud and so happy," prominent Pakistani fashion designer Zehra Valliani wrote on the social networking site Facebook.

"After a long time we deserved this celebration. Pakistan Zindabad! (Long Live Pakistan)," she wrote.

After the victory in London, Pakistan captain Younus Khan made an emotional appeal for teams to visit his country.

"Everybody must come to Pakistan, we need a home test series. How can we attract the youngsters?," Younus, draped in the Pakistan flag, told a news conference.