KARACHI: Upon entering the Gaddafi Stadium to attend the Pakistan Super League match between home side Lahore Qalandars and Quetta Gladiators on Monday night, Faryal was stopped at the venue’s gates by security personnel.

“They acted like I’m carrying a weapon with me,” Faryal wrote on X, after expressing her anger and frustration on the social media platform.

As a matter of fact, the match-goer had no weapon on her. What irked the guards on the entry gate was that she was openly in possession of a banner, on which was printed the slogan “Palestine Will Be Free”.

“This is not allowed inside,” they told Faryal, as she narrated to Dawn a day later. “This is a political message, it is controversial and may hurt some people. If you want to go inside, you’ve to leave it here.”

How the guards behaved, Faryal said, “scared my younger siblings who were accompanying me and I chose not to argue”.

What the guards did was their job; abiding by one of the terms and conditions printed behind the PSL tickets; “Posters, banners, or placards, depicting religious, political, or racial discrimination in the form of text or pictures are strictly prohibited.”

Faryal’s message, however, was in line with Pakistan’s stance regarding Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Pakistan has consistently advocated for a two-state solution as the key to enduring peace in the Middle East, with a just, comprehensive and lasting solution to the Palestinian question anchored in international law and in line with relevant United Nations and OIC resolutions.”

Despite the government being clear in its view on the issue, the Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) decision to disallow spectators from carrying a message regarded as more of a humanitarian appeal in context of the loss of innocent lives — including those of minors in the ongoing Israeli aggression on Palestine’s Gaza Strip — appears to raise questions.

While pro-Palestine protests have been a regular feature in European football — Celtic’s Green Brigade affirming their support for the cause as recently as on February 17 during their Scottish Premiership match against Kilmarnock — and also during the recent Asian Cup, their voice has muted in the world of cricket.

Published in Dawn, February 21st, 2024

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