Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Interior – Sheikh Rasheed believes that New Zealand authorities do not have any substantive proof of a threat in Pakistan and the tour was cancelled on the basis of a conspiracy.
Addressing a press conference after the Kiwis pulled out of Pakistan tour, Rasheed said that New Zealand took a unilateral decision even as they had Pakistan provided presidential security arrangements for the team.
Rasheed further said that New Zealand authorities did not have any evidence to support their claim of ‘security threat’ as the Pakistan army, security forces, and 4,000 police personnel were arranged for them.
“The prime minister was briefed on the matter. He then called New Zealand Prime Minister [Jacinda Ardern] and assured her that there was no security threat,” Rasheed said.
He further said that in a response to Imran Khan, New Zealand’s PM has said that there were reports that the team might be attacked once it steps out of the hotel.
“The security institution of Pakistan had not received reports of threats to the New Zealand cricket team. They took a unilateral decision to cancel their tour,” Rasheed said.
“The tour has been cancelled on the basis of a conspiracy. This is their [New Zealand] problem. The National Crises Management Cell and other institutions had tried to convince them, but New Zealand’s government has taken a unilateral decision,” he claimed.
“This conspiracy has been hatched to tarnish the image of Pakistan, as its image was going to build up due to the role it is playing for peace in the region,” he added.
Earlier, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had said that the safety of its players is paramount and meanwhile, supported New Zealand Cricket’s (NZC) decision to pull out of its Pakistan tour.
“When I spoke with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, I conveyed our thanks for taking care of the New Zealand Cricket team,” Ardern said in a statement sent to Reuters.
“I know how disappointing it will be for everyone that the game hasn’t gone ahead, but we totally support the decision that’s been made. Player safety has to be paramount,” she added.
Meanwhile, PCB chairman Ramiz Raja slammed the Kiwi cricket board for pulling out of the series at the last minute on Friday.
The incident happened just few minutes before the first of the three ODIs in Rawalpindi when NZC decided to pull out citing security concerns.
Later, the PCB released a statement saying that the NZC was “unilaterally suspending” the tour. On the other hand, Raja warned that the matter will be taken up before the International Cricket Council (ICC) very soon.
“Crazy day it has been! Feel so sorry for the fans and our players. Walking out of the tour by taking a unilateral approach on a security threat is very frustrating. Especially when it’s not shared!! Which world is NZ living in??NZ will hear us at ICC,” Raja tweeted.
Earlier in the day following a period of uncertainty and chaos caused by the delay of the first ODI apart from rumours of COVID-19 outbreak in the Kiwi camp, a statement from New Zealand Cricket (NZC) was issued which said it was cancelling the ongoing tour on a security alert.
Commenting on the development, NZC said in a statement: “The side was to play Pakistan this evening in the first of three ODIs in Rawalpindi, before moving to Lahore for a five match T20 series. However, following an escalation in the New Zealand Government threat levels for Pakistan, and advice from NZC security advisors on the ground, it has been decided the BLACKCAPS will not continue with the tour.”
“Arrangements are now being made for the team’s departure,” it added.
On the other hand, the PCB statement said: “Earlier today, New Zealand Cricket informed us they had been alerted to some security alert and have unilaterally decided to postpone the series.”
“Pakistan Cricket Board and Pakistan Government made foolproof security arrangements for all visiting teams. We have assured the New Zealand Cricket of the same. The Pakistan Prime Minister spoke personally to the Prime Minister of New Zealand and informed her that we have one of the best intelligence systems in the world and that no security threat of any kind exists for the visiting team,” it added.
Further elaborating, the statement said: “The security officials with the New Zealand team have been satisfied with security arrangements made by the Pakistan Government throughout their stay here.”
While the ODIs was slated to be held at Rawalpindi’s Pindi Cricket Stadium on September 17, 19, and 21, the historic Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore would have had stage the five T20Is between September 25 to October 3.
Notably, the Kiwi cricket team was touring Pakistan after a long gap of 18 years. Earlier, New Zealand’s tour to Pakistan was cut short in 2002 after a bomb explosion outside the team’s hotel in Karachi.
New Zealand had last played an ODI series in Pakistan in 2003.