How fifth generation warfare cancelled cricket tours

Mishael Qadeer Sub-Editor National Desk

25th Sep, 2021. 07:49 pm
PCB: New Zealand Cricket has not talked about any worries over upcoming tour

PCB: New Zealand Cricket has not talked about any worries over upcoming tour

KARACHI: Following in New Zealand’s footsteps, the England and Wales cricket team has also withdrawn its plans to tour Pakistan next month, with both the men and women’s teams cancelling their tours.

The England Cricket Board (ECB) has cited “increasing concerns about travelling to the region,” leaving Pakistani citizens, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and the government livid at the way the country is being treated.

This move adds insult to injury as earlier this month the Kiwi team had decided to travel back to Auckland minutes before the toss over a security threat. Not only did the team depart abruptly, New Zealand also refused to share any information or intelligence data with Pakistan regarding the alleged threat which it had discovered via the obscure intelligence alliance, Five Eyes.

The issue has left an otherwise divided country united on both the sporting and political fronts as the withdrawals by the touring teams are wholly insulting in terms of the game and geo-politics.

PCB chairperson Ramiz Raja has stated that the decisions have made him feel, “used and then binned.” He added that, “Pakistan has gone out of its way to meet international demands, being such a responsible member of the cricketing fraternity, and in return we get a response from ECB saying the players were spooked by New Zealand’s withdrawal. What does that mean?”

Put simply, what this means is that the whole situation has very little to do with cricket and everything to do with politics.

Starting from the abrupt withdrawal by the Black Caps citing a security threat that has yet to be discussed despite Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan personally reaching out to New Zealand PM Jacinda Arden, to the ECB claiming that besides the English government having found no security concerns in Pakistan, the players felt uneasy travelling to the country, to the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) customary tight lipped stance on the situation. None of the parties involved really seems to have cricket on their mind.

In fact what is being prioritised are the optics of these withdrawals as they raise serious concerns over the security and stability within Pakistan, especially in the wake of the Afghanistan issue, making the country appear vulnerable and leaving its international sporting future hanging in the balance.

All clues lead to India

During a press conference held on Wednesday, Federal Information and Broadcasting Minister Fawad Chaudhry and Federal Interior Minister Shaikh Rashid claimed that the reason for the Black Caps’ withdrawal can be traced back to India.

According to Rashid, the team cancelled its first visit to Pakistan after 18 years over a conspiracy hatched by Pakistan’s not-so-friendly neighbour which aimed to destabilise the peace in the region.

According to the political veteran, the conspiracy was hatched through a fake social media post which was made by a user claiming to be Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militant Ehsanullah Ehsan. The post warned the New Zealand cricket board against sending its team to Pakistan as they would be subjected to an attack by the TTP.

Fawad Chaudhry, in his presser, further revealed that once the New Zealand team had arrived, another threatening email was received via a virtual private network, traced to Singapore. He added that after further investigations it was discovered that, “the device used to send the threat to the New Zealand team belonged to India [and was sent using] a fake ID from Maharashtra.”

“This whole threat was primarily generated from India,” said Chaudhry while urging the international cricketing community to take notice of the situation.

When the federal government spoke to the New Zealand team’s security in charge regarding the situation, he claimed that he had received information about a security threat to the team. However, when broached for further information, the official said he did not have any.

Furthermore, PM Arden claimed that while there was nothing to be concerned about generally, they had reasons to believe that the team maybe attacked when they step into the stadium.

This, of course, has enraged the nation since it is by no means a satisfactory enough explanation for the withdrawal. While the decision to leave is entirely the visitors’ prerogative, and one that we as a nation must respect, the lack of transparency around the perceived threat has sent a clear message of non-cooperation to Pakistan.

The Western Mandate

Clearly something sinister is at play, which is why there so much silence around the issue. Could it be Pakistan’s stance on Afghanistan? The evidence certainly points towards it – or at the very least those looking to create a scene are certainly taking advantage of it.

After the United States’ hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan, too much has been left hanging in the balance. A new Taliban government is in its cradle and how events unfold in the region will have immediate and lasting impacts. It is then no surprise that Pakistan has a vested interest to ensure stability in the region.

However, the approach being taken, according to many, is not to the liking of much of the West with Chaudhry having gone as far as to say that, “Pakistan is being punished by New Zealand and England for Prime Minister Imran Khan saying ‘absolutely not’ to the United States.”

Is there any truth to this? Pakistan has been very vocal following the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and has made an active effort in encouraging the international community to provide humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. It has indicated a strong will to work with the Taliban government.

All this has not settled well with the western mandate for Afghanistan as populist international media has repeatedly called out Pakistan for siding with the terrorists.

Furthermore, Capitol Hill has added legitimacy to this narrative with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken claiming that the US would reevaluate its ties with Pakistan, claiming that it has, “a multiplicity of interests which are in conflict with those of the United States.”

The media and the US congress have their pitch forks drawn against the idea of a Taliban government and are constantly pushing a narrative that villainies it. Pakistan’s possible support of the regime can be weaponised, with spin-doctors making it seem that the country is sympathetic towards terrorists, might possibly harbor them and subsequently be an unsafe space for international visitors and traders, alike.

While the federal government believes its Afghan policy is a move towards peace and stability in the region, some are willing to trace its contours in the Cricketgate saga and see it as a subversive tactic to ensure that Pakistan appears unsafe and weak.

With the narrative of insecurity in place, Pakistan risks being pulled back into the early 2000s when foreign trade and visitors were scarce as the country was seen as another rubbled part of the global south.

 Pakistan’s new backbone

 However, this isn’t the Pakistan of the 2000s. The country has not relented and resigned in the wake of the teams’ withdrawal controversy. In fact, both the PCB and the federal government have stood by the nation and its cricketers.

Abandoning its previously apologist tendencies, the PCB under the helm of Ramiz Raja has been refreshingly vocal on the issue. In fact, Raja has not only encouraged his team to, “release [their] frustration and anger by channeling it towards [their] performance,” but has categorically called on the ICC to look into the matter.

He further stated that “New Zealand would hear from Pakistan at the ICC,” which has prompted the Kiwis to look into compensating Pakistan for their uncalled for withdrawal.

Similarly, the federal government claimed it would pursue the root cause of the misinformation despite a lack of cooperation, it did well to trace it too.

This is a clear indication of a firmer Pakistan – one that does not see itself as a pawn in international politics. The gauntlet has fallen on the political end, with PM Imran Khan being very vocal in his support of the Pakistan cricket team and clearly signaling to the international community that the nation will not be left at the mercy of international bullying.

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