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Pak fans undeterred by strict security

A heavy police presence did not dampen the spirits of Pakistani cricket fans flocking to the Gaddafi stadium for the first one-dayer.

india Updated: Oct 03, 2003 16:40 IST

A heavy police presence did not dampen the spirits of Pakistani cricket fans flocking to the Gaddafi stadium for the first one-day international against South Africa on Friday.

Despite stringent security measures imposed by around 2,500 officers, including hundreds of armed police, spectators started entering the stadium two hours before the scheduled start.

Queues built up as they entered through 15 gates after passing through scanners and being searched.

Most fans, however, were happy to get the chance to watch international cricket.

"The security arrangements are not as bad as we were expecting. Everything appears to be smooth and the policemen and women are not harassing anyone," spectator Azhar Abbas said.

South Africa are the first high-profile international side to visit Pakistan since New Zealand abandoned a tour last May after a bomb exploded outside their hotel in Karachi, killing 14 people including 11 French engineers.

The South Africans had earlier cancelled the tour after a bomb blast in Karachi on September 18, but changed their minds after the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) dropped Karachi and Peshawar from the tour itinerary and promised stringent security.

"It is great to see the people coming in for the match after all the publicity about security," PCB chief executive Rameez Raja said. "It shows teams don't have anything to worry about in Pakistan."

Both the West Indies and Australia refused to play in Pakistan last year because of security concerns and had their series relocated to neutral venues.

Police set up roadblocks within a one-mile radius of the stadium to prevent unauthorised vehicles approaching. They also carried out a security sweep of the stadium before it was opened for the public.

"We have made efforts to ensure a strong police presence in and around the stadium but they have been advised not to create problems for the people," Captain Mubin Zaidi, superintendent of police, told Reuters.

Bangladesh have just completed a test and one-day tour of Pakistan.

First Published: Oct 03, 2003 16:40 IST