Islamabad – Pakistan’s interior minister Thursday ruled out sending the national cricket team to India for the World Twenty20 until security assurances come from New Delhi, saying the threats from extremists are concerning.
The Pakistan team were due to fly out on Wednesday to play in the World Twenty20 cricket tournament but their departure was put on hold by the government.
“Until and unless clear guarantees on security come from the Indian government, unfortunately we are not in a position to decide sending the team,” Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told the media.
Khan said the government and every Pakistani wanted to see the former champions play in India.
“Despite a lot of apprehensions and the fact that India do not want to play Pakistan (in bilateral series) on one or other pretext, the government and every Pakistani fan want to see our team, who are former champions, to go and play,” he said.
“This is a world event, but can cricket be played under the shadow of threats? It is the government’s responsibility to ensure security of our players and that we are doing.”
Pakistan sent a security assessment team to India on Monday after voicing repeated concerns about arrangements, saying there had been threats from Hindu activists.
On Wednesday the International Cricket Council (ICC) and Board of Cricket for Control in India (BCCI) shifted the March 19 game after the chief minister of the north Indian state of Himachal Pradesh refused to provide security for the match.
Khan said the first part of Pakistan’s demand was met when the match was shifted from Dharamsala to Kolkata, but added that even a full to capacity Eden Gardens stadium could be risky.
“What are we demanding? We are demanding an even playing field,” said Khan.
“We want our players to play without any pressure,” said Khan. “There will be near to 100,000 people at Eden Gardens and even a bottle thrown at our players can disturb them.”
Diplomatic tensions have meant that the two teams have not played any bilateral series for more than three years, and their rivalry is restricted to multi-national tournaments such as the World T20.
The arch-rivals have not played a full series since 2007 and although Pakistan did tour India late in 2012 for a short limited over series that failed to revive the ties fully.
India did not play an agreed series with Pakistan in December last year, citing refusal from New Delhi amidst heightened tensions between the South Asian nuclear rivals.