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Pakistan celebrates cricket win

Pakistani cricket fans celebrate their country"s team victory in the final of Twenty20 World Cup against Sri Lanka, in Islamabad, Pakistan on Sunday, June 21, 2009
Fans thronged the streets following Pakistan's win

Pakistanis have been celebrating victory over Sri Lanka in Sunday's Twenty20 cricket final in the UK.

Thousands of people poured onto the streets dancing and rejoicing as their team secured an eight-wicket win at Lord's cricket ground in London.

Local media see the win as a boost for the country at a time when the army is locked in combat with the Taliban after a wave of suicide and other attacks.

Foreign teams have refused to play in Pakistan over security concerns.

The BBC's Mike Wooldridge in Islamabad says that the fact that Pakistan were playing Sri Lanka was a significant factor.

Pakistan's isolation as a cricket host was only compounded when in March militants attacked the Sri Lankan team as they travelled to a match in Lahore, killing six policemen and a bus driver and injuring some of the Sri Lankan team.

Going 'ballistic'

"Feel-good gift for the nation," was the main headline of the newspaper Dawn the morning after the victory. "Team lifts trophy, Nation's spirits," was carried by The News.

Pakistani cricket fans share traditional sweets to celebrate their country"s team victory in the final of Twenty20 World Cup against Sri Lanka, in Lahore, Pakistan on Sunday, June 21, 2009

The papers reported cricket fans going "ballistic", thronging the streets, dancing and setting off fireworks, relishing something to celebrate at a time when the national mood is generally far more sombre.

It has been 17 years since Pakistan won a major cricket competition - the last major victory was the 1992 World Cup under the captaincy of Imran Khan.

The victory over Sri Lanka comes at a precarious time for Pakistan, our correspondent says.

For the past two months Pakistani security forces have been engaged in an offensive against the Pakistani Taliban, that has left more than two million people displaced from their homes.

As the offensive in north-west Malakand division continues, forces are launching assaults in the tribal belts of North and South Waziristan, close to the domain of Pakistan's top Taliban leader, Baitullah Mehsud.

The Taliban leader is widely believed to be responsible for a string of attacks across Pakistan in recent months.

A former Pakistan cricket captain, Rashid Latif, said the national team could not have given the Pakistani people a more appropriate gift at this time.

National pride

Most major cities in Pakistan had arranged big screens where huge crowds congregated to watch the final.

The BBC's Kamil Dayan Khan in Islamabad says that with every advance that Pakistan's cricketers made towards their final goal, the crowds would emit huge roars followed by dancing and drum beats.

As soon as Pakistan won, people started distributing sweets on the streets.

The injection of optimism has also been reflected in online activity.

Mobile phone text messages that previously circulated warnings about security threats carried messages of congratulation - and Facebook sites carried comments such as "all hope is not lost", Kamil Dayan Khan says.



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