LAHORE - After six years, international cricket has returned home. The Lahore’s Qaddafi Stadium remains packed to capacity during Pakistan-Zimbabwe T-20 matches.

While Pakistanis are enjoying international cricket in their country, the Green Shirts have regain the opportunity to play on the home ground. Despite security threats, tens of thousands of people including women and children reach the stadium hours before the start of the game in temperatures of 43 degrees Celsius.

Cricket has also revived the nightlife in Lahore after several years, as thousands of people from different parts of the country are visiting the provincial metropolis to enjoy cricket, food, and the nightlife. On the weekend, huge rush of food-lovers was seen at famous food points, markets, restaurants, and hotels. There has been great hustle and bustle at parks, shopping malls, and important markets as people are out to enjoy the Lahore’s nightlife amid cricket season.

Because of spate of terrorism in the past, people preferred to remain indoors. But now with the revival of international cricket, the nightlife also seems to have returned. The key component behind this beautiful change, in fact, is the police strategy to ensure best security arrangements besides improving a sense of security among the citizens. And at least 9000 police personnel including a great number of Elite Police Force (EPF) commandoes are taking part in this exercise to maintain peace in Lahore.

Days before the arrival of the visiting team, police and security personnel performed full-dress rehearsal to ensure best security for Pakistan-Zimbabwe series. Similarly, the police intensified armed patrolling and heightened the security all across Lahore with massive deployment and unusual checking at surprise pickets.

The officials of Quick Response Force (QRF) and Mobile Squads jointly organized flag marches on different roads to improve sense of security among the people. An officer of the rank of SP lead s the flag march in which 100 elite police commandoes on eight vehicle participate.

The Lahore police are assigned the uphill task of maintaining peace and law and order in the Punjab capital to make the cricket series a success story.  

Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Muhammad Amin Wains and DIG (Operations) Haider Ashraf are constantly supervising the aerial surveillance through three designated helicopters. The top police officers are also in constant contact with the administration of Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to provide best security cover to the players and the cricket fans too.

During a brief chat with this scribe, Lahore Operations Police Chief DIG Haider Ashraf said that every policeman will fight till the last drop of blood to protect the “state guests” and the lives and properties of the citizens.

Haider Ashraf further said that the success of this tour would send a strong message to the world that Pakistan is a peaceful country and the Pakistani nation loves cricket. “We are very hopeful and confident that the day is not far off when Pakistan will host mega events like hockey or cricket world cups.”

“There is also a message for the militants that they could not shake the confidence of the people of this country by carrying out cowardly acts of terrorism,” he continued.

More interestingly, the overall crime rate has decreased since thousands of policemen are deployed on “watch and guard” duties across the Punjab capital.

According to crime figures, the incidents of armed robberies and street crimes have dropped drastically because of massive police presence everywhere. Since the police have been setting up special pickets in every nook and corner of the provincial metropolis, the incidents of street crimes, auto lifting, and even house robberies have descended. For an instance, Lahore police reported only three house robberies and 18 incidents of street crimes during the last week in the city, where more than 20 robberies including auto-lifting takes place everyday. Police detained more than 150 suspects during special operations and door-to-door searches last week.

Also, the police arrested a terrorist during a special operations carried out in the Sanda locality on the weekend. He was shifted to an unknown location for further interrogation.

Crime experts say that the visible police deployment matters a lot as far as crime prevention is concerned. The data suggests that the crime rate is almost under control in the provincial metropolis, thanks to the Lahore police chief for putting the entire police force on their toes to ensure best security arrangements.

According to police, three helicopters will continue hovering over the sky for aerial surveillance during the matches while police are ordered to continue patrolling on gun-fitted vehicles on all the roads which lead to the stadium.

In addition to heavy police contingents, sharp-shooters and well-trained commandoes are also be deployed on different roads. The field officers are also directed to follow the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) since the Zimbabwe team has been enjoying the status of “state guests” in the country, where everybody loves the sport.

The policemen also carry out snap-checking and physical search of every person at three different points before allowing anyone to enter the stadium. Also, more than 2000 specially-trained commandoes are also put on their toes to maintain peace and law and order in the Punjab capital.