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Hero driver still traumatised by 2009 attack

Meher Khali

Lahore:  Meher Khalil earned fame and success after saving Sri Lanka’s cricket team from a deadly 2009 attack in Pakistan, but the bus driver calls the incident “tragic” and says it is best forgotten.

The 43-year-old will be one of the guests of honour at Lahore’s Gaffafi Stadium today, when Pakistan play Zimbabwe in their first home international since the notorious incident.

Khalil was driving the team’s bus when it was attacked by rocket launcher and machine gun-wielding extremists in an assault that left eight people dead and seven players injured.

The attack brought an end to international cricket in Pakistan, until Zimbabwe agreed to visit for a short series in Lahore which will be held under unprecedented security.

Khalil was feted after he held his nerve to drive the team to safety, and with reward money from Sri Lanka’s government and donations from well-wishers, he started his own bus company.

Six years on, he told AFP that he wishes he could drive the Zimbabwe team to the stadium for the first Twenty20 international later on Friday.

But he admits that his recollection of the events of March 3, 2009, still fills him with dread.

It took him a moment, he says in an interview, to realise what was happening.

“Initially I thought that they were Lahorites and were celebrating with the firecrackers,” he remembers.

“But when two people came towards me and started firing at me then I realised that it was some other kind of work.”

Momentarily stupefied, he was shaken into action when the players began shouting “Go! Go!”

“Those words were like a 440-volt current jolting through my body. I gathered myself and then hit the throttle.” More

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