Pakistani authorities and broadcasters blanked out news of a suicide attack near Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium to ensure that it would not impact a game between the national cricket team and Zimbabwe, the country’s information minister has said.
The attack has raised questions about whether the tour by Zimbabwe, the first by an international side since the Sri Lankan team was attacked by terrorists in Lahore in 2009, would continue.
The blast occurred at 9pm Pakistan time on Friday when a day-night match between Pakistan and Zimbabwe was underway. The 50-over match continued uninterrupted and was won by Pakistan.
Information minister Pervaiz Rashid confirmed to the media that the blast near the Gaddafi Stadium which killed two people, including a police officer, was a suicide attack.
Rashid praised the Pakistan Broadcasters Association for "covering up" the news while the match was underway.
Soon after the blast, the Pakistan Cricket Board issued a statement that said it was a "power transformer blast" caused by malfunctioning. TV news channels initially reported there was an explosion close to Gaddafi Stadium but later removed news about the blast off air after it was claimed that an electricity transformer had blown up.
The Pakistan Broadcasters Association decided in conjunction with the information ministry not to report the incident to avert any untoward incident such as a stampede at the stadium, Geo News reported.
More than 20,000 people were in the stadium and panic could have caused a stampede, Rashid said.
The government of Pakistan’s Punjab province has given "presidential" security to the Zimbabwe cricket team to ensure no terror incident takes place during its tour.
Rashid said a sub-inspector lost his life trying to stop the suicide bomber. Six people were injured by the blast at a spot less than a kilometre from the stadium.
"An attempt to attack the Gaddafi Stadium was foiled by the gallantry of a police official, who lost his life while trying to stop the attacker near Kalma Chowk," Rashid told Geo News.
Media reports said policemen stopped the bomber before he could enter the outer wall of the stadium when he blew himself up.
Punjab Police’s Inspector General (Operations) told a news briefing that two people — sub-inspector Abdul Majeed and a civilian identified only as Rizwan — were killed by the blast.
This is the first tour of Pakistan by any international cricket team since the March 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore's Liberty Chowk, also located near Gaddafi Stadium, in which six members of the visiting team were injured.