The abrupt withdrawals of first the New Zealand cricket team from the ODI’s in Rawalpindi just hours before the first match and then the England Cricket Board (ECB) from the upcoming series in Pakistan have left the country disappointed. Just three days after the Kiwis, the ECB had also decided against sending their team to Pakistan, citing security concerns and leaving thousands of fans in shock. But neither the Black Caps nor the English team gave sound explanations behind their decision, leaving room for speculation. And let’s face it their decision to not tour Pakistan comes just weeks before the Indian Premier League (IPL) is set to resume for this season. If the Indian connection behind these hasty withdrawals was not clear before, the startling revelation by Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Wednesday has provided proof. Chaudhry in a joint presser with Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid said that “fake news was generated by India to scuttle the [NZ] tour.” According to Chaudhry, a fake Facebook post claiming to be under the name of Ehsan Ullah Ehsan, a former spokesperson for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), was widely circulated on social media on August 19 asking for the NZ cricket board to reconsider their decision to tour this country. Following this, a bureau chief of a leading Indian newspaper – Sunday Guardian – wrote an article claiming that the Kiwis would face a terror attack in Rawalpindi.]
The ministers have asked further assistance in probing this matter from the Interpol and if the connection is proven, Pakistan should reach out to the International Cricket Council (ICC). This is no small maneuvering by India, who has previously also tried to sabotage Pakistan through a disinformation campaign as was stated in a report by the EU Disinfo Lab in Dec last year. Post the 2009 terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team, it took years for Pakistan to see cricket glory in the country. An attempt to jeopardize Pakistan’s progress that recently hosted international teams, such as, South Africa, and also had a successful run of the Pakistan Super League (PSL), is a huge blow to the many talented cricketers we have. The authorities, including the new Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman Ramiz Raja, should act in a mature manner and take up the matter constructively. Cricket shouldn’t be allowed to be used as a tool for gains in regional politics.