Sri Lanka felicitates Pakistani driver for saving cricketers

April 6th, 2009 - 5:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Kumar Sangakkara By P. Karunakharan
Colombo, April 6 (IANS) Sri Lanka Monday felicitated the Pakistani bus driver who drove away the island nation’s cricket team to safety when a group of terrorists ambushed their vehicle and launched a grenade and gun attack in Lahore last month.

Driver Meher Mohammad Khalil, who was described by the Sri Lankan media as “a hero of our time” arrived in Colombo Sunday with his wife Nazia and his brother-in-law to spend a week-long holiday here.

The Daily News has sponsored his family trip “as a token of appreciation and gratitude for his courageous action” to save the island’s cricketing heroes.

“I am privileged to be honoured here. I did it for Pakistan and I did it for Sri Lanka (cricketers) who were our ambassadors. I will gladly do my duty again,” Khalil said during a felicitation ceremony at Sri Lanka Cricket headquarters in Colombo Monday.

He was gifted $21,800 jointly by the SLC, the sports ministry and some private companies while several top hoteliers offered to host his eight-day tour around the island nation.

A dozen terrorists sprayed bullets and fired rocket-propelled grenades at the convoy carrying Sri Lankan players to Lahore’s Gaddafi International Stadium where they were to play the third day of the second and last Test against hosts Pakistan March 3.

Seven players and the team’s assistant coach were injured and six Pakistani police officials providing protection to the bus carrying the players were killed in the terror strike that shook the entire cricketing world.

“Khalil is a man with no military training. His courage, quick thinking and timely action have enabled us to see another day. Thank you (for saving us),” said Sri Lankan skipper Kumar Sangakkara as he hugged Khalil at the ceremony here.

“Khalil, we will always remember you… you are our hero,” said Sri Lanka’s former captain Mahela Jayawardene who led the team for Pakistan tour of two Test matches that was abandoned after the attack.

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