ISLAMABAD - Authorities in Afghanistan have detained around 100 people, including policemen, in connection with Friday night’s prolonged volleys of celebrity gunfire following their national team’s rare victory over Pakistan in a warm-up match for the Cricket World Cup, which starts next week.
An Interior Ministry spokesman Saturday confirmed the security action, saying the gunfire injured at least 10 people. Nasrat Rahimi said the suspects were rounded up in the capital Kabul, as well as in the eastern provinces of Nangarhar and Khost, both located close to the Pakistani border.
The Afghan team, which includes players who grew up in refugee camps in Pakistan, chased down the Pakistani team’s total of 262 runs to win the match. The victory is a timely boost for Afghanistan, which goes into the World Cup in England as the 10th-placed team in international rankings and considered a big outsider.
For a country torn by years of conflict, the rare triumph against Pakistan, a former world champion, meant a lot for Afghans because many of them often accuse the neighboring country of being behind the Taliban-led hostilities in Afghanistan, charges Islamabad rejects as unfounded.
As soon as the match ended, gunfire rattled Kabul and other cities, with cricket fans storming into city streets and dancing to celebrate the success. Afghans, including top politicians and government officials, took to social media to congratulate their team, setting aside ethnic and political differences.
“A wonderful win. Congratulations to all Afghan and a strong message to every one. If we stay united, we can win in every field and bring happiness to the nation. Let’s stop fighting and make a united and heroic nation and a peaceful country,” tweeted one Afghan fan.
The Afghan cricket team is one of the success stories in a country where continued war has killed tens of thousands of civilians, undermining efforts aimed at promoting outdoor sporting activities.
But others were critical of the celebratory gunfire.
"Shameful to see celebrations with gunfire in Kabul and elsewhere. Security forces seen firing shots. “What goes up must come down,” lamented Bilal Sarwary, a well-known Afghan journalist with nearly 100,000 Twitter followers.
Pakistan’s military, which is often accused of covertly maintaining ties to the Taliban, also praised the Afghan cricket team for winning the match. “Well Played Afghan Cricket Team,” tweeted army spokesman Major-General Asif Gahoor in English and Pashto, a major Afghan language.
Pakistan, a major cricket playing nation, has and continues to host millions of Afghan refugees, and is where many players currently part of the national team of Afghanistan learned the sport.