Pakistan prayers, prizes for win over India

Thousands of Pakistanis are expected to take part in mass prayer sessions, asking God to guide them to victory against India in the hotly anticipated World Cup cricket semi-final on Wednesday.

On the eve of the match, around 1,200 people congregated in the Jamia Binoria madrassa in Karachi, reciting Koranic verses in its glossy-tiled mosque before loudly praying for victory in the epic encounter.

"Our boys (in the cricket team) are highly talented and God-fearing, which is why we have gathered here to pray for their success," said Mufti Mohammad Naeem, the head of the madrassa.

Pakistan is a deeply conservative country where the vast majority of the population are practising Muslims. Pakistan have not beaten India in any of their four previous World Cup matches dating back to 1992.

Tapping into the hysteria that India can inspire in Pakistan, seminary pupil Wali Ahmed, 18, claimed the prayer was a fitting reply to "black magic".

"We pray to Allah to make our team victorious and foil the black magic and occult being exercised by the Indians to beat us," said an enthusiastic Ahmed.

"Everything occurs with the will of Allah, so it is necessary to pray for everything which we strive to succeed in," said local resident Mushtaq Ali.

Similar congregations were convened in mosques of southern city Hyderabad.

Shahbaz Sharif, chief minister of Pakistan's largest province Punjab, promised each team member 25 acres of land if they beat India at Mohali.

"The Punjab government will give 25 acres of fertile land to each member of the team as a prize if they beat India," Sharif told journalists.

Sharif said the whole nation will pray for Pakistan's win.

"Our team deserves appreciation from the nation for displaying outstanding performance in different matches of the World Cup and the whole
nation will be praying for its success," said Sharif, an avid follower of the game.

Various organisations have announced special prayers for the team in Lahore, Karachi and Quetta, with thousands of people expected to attend.

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