Calls are intensifying for authorities in Pakistan to change the name of one of its prominent sports arenas – Muammar Gaddafi Stadium -- in Lahore.
Originally named Lahore Stadium, the world-renowned cricket and soccer ground (which seats 60,000) was renamed in 1974 in honor of the former Libyan leader after he delivered a speech at a meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in favor of Pakistan's right to develop nuclear weapons.
During that infamous speech, Gaddafi reportedly said: Pakistan is the fort of Islam.
Then-president of Pakistan Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto endorsed the renaming and the two countries have remained close allies.
However, it is not entirely clear why Bhutto named the stadium after Gaddafi, since the Libyan leader was apparently not a cricket fan, nor did he invest any money into its upgrade.
Now that Gaddafi is dead and the magnitude of his crimes against his own people made public, many believe the stadium should be renamed.
Pakistani columnist Farooq Tirmizi, wrote on a blog months ago: Gaddafi Stadium is the home of the Pakistan Cricket Board and [was] the site of the final of the 1996 World Cup for a reason: it is simply the best that Pakistan cricket has to offer. So why is it named after a brutal Arab dictator?
Similarly, an anonymous Pakistani blogger wrote: “Why does this dictator get the name of our premier cricket ground? How can a murderer's name be associated with the game of cricket. Pakistan must change the name of Gaddafi Stadium as soon as possible to show solidarity with the innocent people of Libya.”
In an online poll, some Pakistanis have suggested renaming the ground after Imran Khan, a Lahore native who was perhaps the greatest cricket player in Pakistani history. However, given Khan’s position as an outspoken opposition politician, that honor is not likely to come his way.
Another possible name being floated is Abdul Hafeez Kardar, Pakistan's first official Test captain and former head of the Board of Control for Cricket in Pakistan (the predecessor of the Pakistan Cricket Board).
Columnist Tirmizi added: “Did we not feel embarrassed to invite the English team to play in a stadium named after the man responsible for the bombing over Lockerbie? We have tolerated this ridiculous name now for about 37 years. As we watch the scenes of horrific violence visited by the madman upon the Libyan people, let us at least do them the courtesy of removing their tormentor’s name from our biggest stadium.”
Moreover, relations between Libya and Pakistan have actually been rocky at best since the removal of Zulfikar Bhutto. His successor, General Zia ul-Haq, detested Gaddafi and cut off all ties with Libya.
Those relations were not fully restored until Bhutto’s daughter, Benazir, ascended to power in Pakistan in 1988.
Reportedly, the Pakistan Cricket Board has not responded to the calls for a renaming of the stadium.
Meanwhile, across the African continent, scores of buildings, mosques, highways and other pieces of infrastructure bear Gaddafi’s name. Now, the process to erase his name from public edifices have begun. For example, in Khartoum, Sudan, the ‘Burj Alfateh’ hotel (which commemorated the 1969 coup in Libya which brought Gaddafi to power), has been rechristened Corinthia Hotel.