Meher Khalil

Six long years have passed by but the 2009 Lahore Sri Lanka team bus attack brings back haunting memories of the incident. The event which shook the cricketing fraternity injured six Sri Lankan cricketers and took the lives of two civilians and six Pakistani policemen. Since that disheartening terror attack, no side toured Pakistan for international cricket. Six years since, the Pakistani cricket fans can now smile as the nation is set to host Zimbabwe for a international series.

Meher Khalil, the lifesaver, who drove the bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricketers to safety through firings, has earned fame and success since then.  Khalil’s soul job was to drive buses but today he is recognised as a hero, not just in Sri Lanka and Pakistan, but for humanity. It’s easy to abandon the life of others in dire situations but Khalil kept his calm and drove the bus to safety when it came under attack.

Khalil will be one of the guests of honour at Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium on Friday, when Pakistan play Zimbabwe in the first international match at home since the terrifying incident. Despite saving the Sri Lankan cricket team from the fatal incident, the 42-year old believes it is best to be forgotten.

He has started his own bus company with the reward from the Sri Lankan government and donations from well-wishers. Today, he wishes to drive the Zimbabwe team to the stadium for the first Twenty20 (T20) international on Friday.

In a report from AFP, he said, “Initially I thought that they were Lahorites and were celebrating with the firecrackers. But when two people came towards me and started firing at me then I realised that it was some other kind of work.”

For a moment, he became bewildered and was shaken into action when the players began shouting “Go! Go!”

“Those words were like a 440-volt current jolting through my body. I gathered myself and then hit the throttle. There were 10 to 12 people who attacked them as they were coming from the team hotel, “he added.

“Thank God I kept my confidence and dashed them (the players) safely to the stadium.”

After the Sri Lankan players were taken to a safe airbase for their return, Khalil says the team invited him to come Sri Lanka.

“But I told them that I am a family man and excused myself at that time. Then a month later their president invited me and I went there,” he explained.

“When I reached the airport I realised that I am not the driver Meher Khalil who has come here but I am a VVIP. When I used to go out to the market for shopping, people would call me ‘hero’,” the bus driver further added.

In addition to the expense-paid holiday, the Sri Lankan government appreciated his heroics with a cash prize of US $21,000. Summing with the donations, Khalil now is the owner of three buses, which runs Lahore to Islamabad motorway.

“When the name Liberty Chowk comes up, even the mention of it raises my hair,” he said.

“That was a tragic incident and it’s better if we don’t remember it.” Khalil concluded, who will be a spectator at the stadium instead of a driver.