by Tariq Panja
Qatar is looking to Pakistan for military support at the 2022 soccer World Cup, hoping to tap the ally’s experience in fighting terrorism.
The Gulf country’s prime minister met Pakistan’s army chief in Qatar Tuesday and expressed interest securing assistance for the 32-team competition, Pakistan’s army said in a statement. The support will include training and even the provision of military personnel for the month-long event.
Pakistan’s proposed role is part of a discussion of wider military cooperation between the Muslim-majority countries. With the World Cup attracting as many as a million fans, and more than a billion watching on television, security is one of the biggest concerns for organizers.
Qatar’s government Communication Office didn’t immediately comment on the matter.
At home, Pakistan’s military has been fighting Taliban insurgents and other Islamist groups for the past two decades. Most international cricket teams stopped touring there following an attack on the Sri Lankan team in 2009. A 2015 visit by the Zimbabwe squad was marred by a suicide bombing outside one of the stadiums.
Qatar’s leadership has pledged to spend $200 billion on transforming the nation ahead of the first World Cup held in the region. The tiny Gulf emirate in 2009 surprisingly defeated bidders, including the U.S., to host the event.
The army’s presence is the nearest 198th ranked Pakistan is likely to get to a World Cup appearance. Its only other connection to the event is through its ball-making factories, which have provided equipment for previous tournaments.