KARACHI: While Pakistan are still reeling from New Zealand’s stunning unilateral decision to cancel their tour of the country in 18 years, a top home cricket board official said on Sunday the process of convincing other foreign nations to come and play here without any security concerns will continue.

Addressing a virtual news conference, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chief executive Wasim Khan also negated calls for boycotting next month’s scheduled Twenty20 World Cup fixture against the Black Caps in the UAE, while expressing optimism that England would visit Rawalpindi ahead of the global event for two T20 Internationals between the men’s teams with women’s side touring for two T20s and three One-day Internationals.

“The ECB [England and Wales Cricket Board] are meeting today [Sunday] to decide whether they will tour Pakistan,” Wasim stated. “We know from a security perspective there is a clean bill of health, and that we know the guidance is. We certainly believe they should be coming and we hope they will be coming.”

PCB chief executive claims security expert for New Zealand continues to maintain Pakistan is safe in terms of security protocols

Wasim, in the meantime, chastised the New Zealand call — which he described as a ‘very dangerous precedent’— to abandon the tour without the information being shared by the New Zealand intelligence with their Pakistani counterparts what the threat was that led to the sudden departure of the New Zealand squad from a bilateral tour that included three ODIs in Rawalpindi and a five-match T20 series in Lahore between Sept 17 and Oct 3.

“To take through some of the sequence of events that took place on the morning of the match, because various reports that have been sort of circulating about what did or didn’t happen,” Wasim narrated. “It was at 3:00am, I received a call from the ESI head of security Reg Dickason [security consultant for New Zealand] informing me that a report had landed on the New Zealand government’s desk through their government security agencies, stating that there was a threat on the [New Zealand] team. And that the threat was direct and imminent on that particular day [Sept 17].

“Later that morning, we met with Reg just to get some more clarification. He stated that there is a set-up called the Five Eyes Alliance, which is set up to share intelligence and security information [among US, Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand]. He [Dickason] stated that the information had emanated from that circle [Five Eyes], and reached the New Zealand deputy prime minister’s office.

“It was serious and something that we needed to try and address immediately. We then proceeded to meet with local security agencies and Pakistan intelligence to try and ascertain whether we believed or they believe there was any threat. They made it very, very clear that there was absolutely nothing that they had picked up to suggest that there was any immediate threat on the New Zealand team.

“This sort of correspondence went on with the intelligence for a few hours. I then received a couple of phone calls from David White [New Zealand Cricket’s chief executive], firstly to inform me that the New Zealand Prime Minister [Jacinda Ardern] had directed the touring squad to return back to New Zealand immediately,” he added.

“I want to categorically brief everyone that right now despite our requests that the New Zealand authorities are unwilling to share information with anybody, which was hugely disappointing for us, considering that this was now a threatening tool.

“And what we would ideally would have liked to have done even if that information had gone to our security agencies, for some intelligence to be shared, and for us to mitigate any potential threats that they deemed could happen or was possible within that report, and try and deal with it collectively, so that we could continue and keep the tour on,” Wasim went on.

“As far as we’re concerned, the security expert for New Zealand [Dickason] had maintained and continues to maintain that Pakistan is safe in terms of our security protocols that we have in place, both from a plan and a rollout perspective.”

The PCB official maintained that there are going be ‘far-reaching’ consequences of this totally unexpected fallout.

“Let me remind them [New Zealand Cricket] that Pakistan players spent the most difficult 14 days of isolation when we toured last year, just months after Bangladesh had played in that country despite the Christchurch mosque terror attack.

“And here the New Zealand team had no issues with the arrangements put in place and expressed that they felt very safe and comfortable since they arrived last Saturday [Sept 11] from Dhaka. They experienced no worries while travelling to the Pindi Cricket Stadium on three days when they practised and enjoyed themselves in open air, until this happened.

“Both I and Ramiz Raja [the newly-elected PCB chairman] will take up New Zealand aba­ndoning the tour with the ICC [Interna­tional Cricket Council] and hope we get justice done,” the PCB chief executive remarked.

“As a nation, we have been strong and brave for a very long time. We’ve had to remain resilient in the face of many adversities. We’ve kept fighting back in the past and we’ll have to brush ourselves off again as a nation and come back again.

“There is no doubt that this is another blow for us and must admit, it’s been pretty gut wrenching. From a PCB perspective, from a fans perspective. You know, you all feel the pain that we felt as fans and first, first and foremost, patriotic towards the country, fans of the nation fans of the cricket team and cricket that comes here.

“It’s been a difficult 48 hours for us trying to dissect what has happened. I think the abrupt departure of the New Zealand team has left many scars for us. And we just certainly hope that this is not going to have long term consequences for us moving forward,” Wasim hoped, while saying the PCB had approached Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to play Pakistan, but it is highly unlikely that there’s any slot available.

Published in Dawn, September 20th, 2021

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