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Courting Controversy

by AFP


ICC condemns politicization of cricket after plane flies over Headingley with ‘Justice for Kashmir’ banner

Banners reading “#Justice for Kashmir” and “India stop genocide & free Kashmir” were flown over Headingley during India’s World Cup clash with Sri Lanka on Saturday.

It was the second such incident at the event in England and Wales, after a banner was flown over the same ground in Leeds during last week’s match between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since they gained independence from British colonial rule in 1947 but both claim the Himalayan territory in full. An insurgency on the Indian side over the past three decades has left more than 70,000 dead, mainly civilians.

“We are incredibly disappointed this has happened again,” the International Cricket Council said in a statement. “We do not condone any sort of political messages at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup. Throughout the tournament we have worked with local police forces around the country to prevent this type of protest occurring. After the previous incident we were assured by West Yorkshire Police there would not be a repeat of this issue, so we are very dissatisfied it has happened again.”

Last week’s group game between Pakistan and Afghanistan was marred by clashes between fans, prompting a police probe. The ugly scenes were sparked by the flying of a banner over the ground reading: “Justice for Balochistan.”

Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest and poorest province, which borders Afghanistan and Iran, is rife with Islamist, separatist and sectarian insurgencies. The Pakistani military has been waging war on militants there since 2004, and security forces are frequently targeted.

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