December 28, 2009
Who has done the most this last year to promote peace and build confidence in South Asia?
Who has done the most this last year to promote peacebuilding and regional integration in South Asia?
“South Asian of the Year” goes easily to Mohammed Khalil, the quick-thinking bus driver in Lahore who managed to save the Sri Lankan cricket team when it was attacked in broad daylight by terrorists.
Security concerns following the 26/11 attack on Mumbai caused the Indian team that was supposed to play this tour, but they pulled out. The Sri Lankans replaced them. Then on March 3, 2009, as the team set out from their hotel towards the stadium, they were ambushed by gunmen. The driver bravely and speedily drove the bus out towards Gaddafi Stadium which was then sealed. The players ducked and lay flat to escape with mostly minor injuries.
(Watch a newsclip here.)
One act of bravery salvaged a situation that could have begun years of acrimonious exchange between governments and cricket boards and snuffed out any hope for goodwill towards Pakistan in cricket(and cricketer)-loving South Asia.