The New Zealand government has reportedly canceled the cricket tour to Pakistan, citing “security concerns” without disclosing any details. According to reports, NZ’s intelligence has said that there was an escalation in the threat level for Pakistan due to which the Blackcaps will not play. The team is currently preparing to leave the country while facing backlash from the cricket analysts and fans. People have been expressing their anger regarding the cancellation of the New Zealand tour to Pakistan because the host country reported safe conditions regarding security.
The NZ team arrived in Pakistan on Sept 11 for 3 ODIs and 5 T20Is, which were supposed to start on Sept 17. The players have been staying in a secure hotel 15 minutes away from the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium and have appeared in 3 training sessions. Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) also confirmed its willingness to continue matches after stating that there were no security threats. Moreover, the security officials with the NZ team were also satisfied with Pakistan’s security arrangements initially. The abrupt decision at the last minute has led the fans to wonder what could have caused NZ to cancel this friendly tour.
Fans Disappointed by the Cancelation of New Zealand Tour to Pakistan
Pakistanis doubted the unilateral decision by NZ and thought it might be due to some political game. It is because cricket has been going great in Pakistan for the past few years with other teams. Many international players have come here to play in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) tournament and also on tours with their respective teams. South Africa just came on a tour in January 2021 and praised the security arrangements. Reportedly, they were given the presidential treatment with a bus protected by vans full of armed guards.
English Cricket Board (ECB) has also been involved by liaising with its own intelligence in Pakistan to understand the situation. It will likely confirm within 48 hours whether the scheduled New Zealand tour to Pakistan would continue or not.
Questions about the Intelligence of New Zealand
Cricket fans highlighted how New Zealand itself was a volatile land in terms of security. They referred to the horrific Christchurch attack in which a trained gunman butchered Muslims inside a Mosque. At that time Bangladesh cricket team was also present in the NZ and was only a few blocks away from the attack. Analysts questioned that if NZ’s intelligence was reliable then how could it let such an attack happen while hosting an international team.
India’s Contribution in Perceived Security Threat
As the debate about NZ’s decision carried on, analysts started to share some articles written by Indians in the recent past. In those articles, pro-BJP (Bhartiya Janata Party) Indian writers discussed how a New Zealand tour to Pakistan could face a terror attack. They quoted Tahreek-E-Taliban (TTP)’s spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan as claiming that the ISIS set-up in Pakistan was going to attack New Zealand players.
Cricket fans have been coming up with theories and speculations about the reason for publishing such articles just one month before the New Zealand tour to Pakistan. Many analysts discussed the possibility of India’s deliberate attempt to reduce Pakistan’s global image and overshadow how cricket was flourishing here. They alleged how Indian forces could have orchestrated the attacks themselves to justify their narrative about Pakistan.
The Executive Director of Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI) shared the problematic articles and highlighted India’s online and offline attack on Pakistan’s reputation.
This Indian disinformation campaign against Pakistan is not only limited to cricket but also at every international forum. The network reportedly consists of sites managed by various Indian institutions and elected government representatives. European Union’s Disinfo Lab has raised concerns that this is the largest network they have exposed so far.