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Last Updated: Friday, 23 March 2007, 17:07 GMT
Pakistani fans struggle with bad news
By M Ilyas Khan
BBC News, Pakistan

Hina Hameed
Hina Hameed says the Pakistani players have been singled out by police

Pakistan's cricket fans have now faced nearly a week of disaster and tragedy.

Their mood seems to be evolving from anger at the team's abysmal performance, to helplessness, to a loss of interest in the game of cricket and now anger again at how they perceive the players to be being treated by the Jamaican police.

Last week, the national cricket team exited the World Cup in a humiliating manner.

Now the fact that the team has been questioned in connection with coach Bob Woolmer's murder means only one thing to many fans here, that the players are under suspicion, even though the Jamaican police have said no such thing.

Hence the renewed anger.

Getting accurate information on the latest developments is not easy. Thursday evening's announcement in Jamaica that Woolmer was murdered came too late for newspapers in Pakistan, where it was already approaching Friday morning.

Single-column

The issue took a back-seat due to a raging controversy over the suspension of the country's top judge by the president, which has been hogging all the headlines.

Asad Mahmud Khan
Asad Mahmud Khan says Woolmer died of shame

"I know of the speculations that Bob Woolmer was poisoned," says Kifayat Khan, the owner of a restaurant on highway from the capital, Islamabad to the north-western city of Peshawar.

"But the papers this morning didn't say that he was strangled to death."

The only front-page news about Woolmer on Friday was a single-column, two-paragraph report that the government had conferred the country's highest civilian award on him.

But private TV channels did cover the press conference by the Jamaican police disclosing that Bob Woolmer was strangled.

They also provided blow-by-blow accounts of the finger-printing of the Pakistani players and the delays caused in their itinerary by the police investigations.

'Extremely angry'

But the reports have not always been accurate, making it hard for viewers here to get a clear idea of what is going on.

Ali Khan
I'm not keen to know what is happening in the West Indies any more
Ali Khan

Hence many people believe that the team will not be allowed to fly out of Jamaica as planned on Saturday but will have to stay in Jamaica until preliminary investigations are complete.

"It makes me extremely angry to know that the Pakistani team has been asked to delay its return to the country," says Hina Hameed, an airline ticketing officer in Islamabad.

"There are other teams whose members could be equally justifiably suspected of killing Bob Woolmer, but the Jamaicans have not curtailed their movements."

Asad Mahmud Khan, a traffic patrol officer on M-1 motorway to Peshawar still can't believe team's Saturday defeat. "What can you say? They lost to Ireland, of all the people. Bob died of shame."

Other cricket fans are angry for different reasons.

"I don't think any of the team members killed Bob, but they deserve what they are getting," says Munam Ahmed.

He believes the team's humiliation was long in the making, with too many distractions, be they to do with doping scandals or the intense interest many of the players have developed in Islam.

"First there was the row over dope tests, and then there was the case of some top cricketers getting involved in proselytizing activities. One can either play cricket or preach religion," he says.

In all of this, interest in the actual cricket at the World Cup has slumped.

"I would stay up until three in the morning to watch TV when the team was playing," says Ali Khan, a petrol pump operator. "But I'm not keen to know what is happening in the West Indies any more."




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