DHAKA: The Bangladesh high court on Thursday ordered the national team's upcoming tour of Pakistan to be postponed for at least four weeks due to security fears.
Bangladesh were set to play a 50-over game and a Twenty20 international on April 29 and 30 in Lahore, the first international cricket matches in the troubled country for three years.
But Additional Attorney General M.K. Rahman told AFP that the high court in Dhaka had ordered Bangladesh's cricket authorities to explain why the tour was scheduled to go ahead despite concerns over the team's safety.
“It asked the cricket board to explain in the next four weeks. During the four weeks, the court imposed an injunction on the cricket team's tour to Pakistan,” he said.
Bangladesh would be the first team to visit Pakistan since a militant attack on the Sri Lankan team bus during the Lahore Test in 2009, when eight people died and seven visiting players and an assistant coach were injured.
The high court gave the order following a petition by a lawyer and a university teacher.
Pakistani political leaders, players and fans had welcomed the planned tour, but in Bangladesh concern over the visit has grown since it was announced on Sunday.
“We told the court that the Pakistan tour would risk the lives of our cricketers,” Hassan Azim, lawyer for the two petitioners, told AFP.
“Pakistan is not a safe place for an international sports event. No other international teams are travelling to Pakistan. Why should Bangladesh go? The decision was imposed on the cricketers.”
The petitioner also said that Pakistan's own media did not think it was safe for international tours.
Bangladesh's coach Stuart Law, from Australia, this week expressed fears about the team's schedule.
“It's got to be made sure by the two associating boards that everyone is 100 percent safe to go,” he said.
“I have spent time with the players and everyone is a bit concerned.”
Law declined to confirm if he would go on the tour, while Bangladesh's cricket authorities said they were seeking clearance from the International Cricket Council (ICC).
Foreign teams shunned Pakistan after the 2009 attacks, forcing them to play their home series on neutral venues, mostly in the United Arab Emirates.
PCB released a strongly-worded statement voicing their fury at the postponement of the Bangladesh tour.
“It is astonishing to note that a matter lacking any legal issue has been dragged in the court by petitioners who appear to have vested interest and want to jeopardise Pakistan-Bangladesh cricketing relations,” the statement said.
“It is extremely disturbing to note for the PCB and Pakistan cricket fans and world cricketing nations that such an adverse order has been passed to block a bilateral cricket series.”
Pakistan had hoped the tour would encourage other foreign teams to visit and ultimately pave the way to a full resumption of home international series.
Former Pakistan coach Mohsin Khan said he thought the postponement was strange.
“During this whole period I thought there was uncertainty but this postponement will definitely hurt Pakistan's sincere efforts to revive cricket in Pakistan,” Khan told AFP.
PCB chief operating officer Subhan Ahmed agreed the postponement would damage Pakistan's attempts to revive home internationals and leave a gap in the team's calendar.
“We do not have any alternate plans because teams are busy in international cricket and we cannot arrange any team in such a short trip,” said Ahmed, still hoping Bangladesh can tour after the court case.
The Federation of International Cricketers' Associations (FICA) called for an independent report on the security situation in Pakistan.
“What's required is not a stumbling, non-transparent and conflicted approach to this issue, but a proper, fully transparent, independent report on the safety of playing in the country,” Tim May, chief executive of the body which represents international cricketers, said in a statement.
“Only then will players feel comfortable contemplating whether it is time to play international cricket again in Pakistan.”