A security delegation of the ICC has begun its inspection of grounds in Pakistan ahead of the Champions Trophy, to be held in September this year. The four-man delegation, consisting of two ICC officials and two from their security consultants, arrived in Karachi yesterday morning and then visited three stadiums today.
Speaking to reporters at the National Bank of Pakistan stadium - which will host some practice matches - Campbell Jamieson, the ICC's general manager-commercial, said that this was a routine visit, in line with protocol for all ICC events.
"We will go to Lahore and Rawalpindi after this to review the security arrangements. This is part of normal ICC protocol. It happens at all our events," Jamieson said. No questions were taken from journalists, Jamieson only adding that the delegation had enjoyed their time in the country so far.
The team was accompanied by PCB officials Zakir Khan and Nadeem Akram and was due to meet the home secretary after the stadium visit. They then head off to Lahore in the evening to carry out further inspections tomorrow before going to Rawalpindi. Along the way, the team is expected to be briefed by various government and local security officials about arrangements for the tournament.
The delegation's findings will then be presented to the ICC for discussion at their next annual meeting on June 29th, at which a final decision will be made on whether or not to go ahead with the event in Pakistan.
Though generally such inspections are routine procedures, this trip will be closely monitored because of recent upheaval in Pakistan. Last year was a particularly turbulent one, with a series of suicide bombings through the country, culminating with the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto in December. This year began in similar vein, but since general elections in February and the arrival of a new government, the violence has lessened considerably. It still wasn't enough, however, to prevent Australia from postponing their trip for a full series in March-April.
Before the Champions Trophy, however, Pakistan will also host the Asia Cup in June-July and it is thought that if that event goes off without a hitch, the chances of the Champions Trophy going ahead will also become brighter. The ICC has announced Sri Lanka as an alternate venue in case it is not deemed safe to host the tournament in Pakistan.