FILE – In this picture taken Nov. 7, 2022, a boy plays soccer in front of a wall mural ahead of the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup football tournament, along a street in Karachi.
• AYAZ GUL
DOHA: Pakistan’s national teams have never qualified for the FIFA World Cup, but its footballs repeatedly have, and thousands of its troops for the first time are guarding the competition underway in Qatar.
The mega event kicked off on Sunday in Doha, the capital of the tiny Gulf state, which expects to host more than 1.2 million visitors during the nearly monthlong competition ending on December 18.
Qatar has formally recruited security forces from 13 countries to assist local partners in ensuring a seamless World Cup, with Pakistan being the largest contributor. Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, the Palestinian Territories, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey and the United States are the other contributors to the security mission.
The Pakistani contingent comprises more than 4,000 military, air force and navy troops of all ranks. They make the South Asian nation the largest contributor securing World Cup stadiums and hotels in the Middle Eastern country, which has a population of less than 3 million.
The troop deployment was requested by the Qatari government in line with “excellent brotherly relations” between Islamabad and Doha, a senior Pakistani security official said in written comments shared with VOA.
“It’s a first time ever a mega event being hosted by a brotherly Muslim country which required substantial arrangements so on request of Qatar government, Pakistan provided the troops,” the official said on condition of anonymity for lacking authority to formally speak to media.
“The Pakistani troops are being employed on security duties inside and outside the venues the way deemed fit by the Qatar authorities,” the official said.
“These troops have received requisite training at Pakistan under international team of instructors from the U.K. and Qatar prior to the conduct of the event,” he added.
Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif hailed the hosting of the World Cup by Qatar. He wrote on Twitter “the world will experience the best of Qatar’s history, culture & hospitality.”