Interior minister claims abrupt cancellation of cricket tour part of a ‘conspiracy’ but refuses to name the alleged conspirators
New Zealand has failed to provide “substantive” proof of a security threat to its cricketers in Pakistan, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said on Friday, hours after the Black Caps abruptly cancelled their tour of Pakistan.
“They took a unilateral decision to cancel their tour,” he told a press conference in Islamabad, adding that no security institution of Pakistan had received any reports of threats to the New Zealand cricket team. He said the Pakistan Army, paramilitary forces, and 4,000 police personnel had been deployed to ensure the Kiwis’ security, adding that a proposal had also been floated to continue the tournament without any spectators but this, too, had been rejected.
“The prime minister [Imran Khan] was briefed on the matter,” he said. “He then called New Zealand prime minister [Jacinda Ardern] and assured her that there was no security threat,” he said, adding that she had responded that there were concerns the team could be attacked if it stepped out of the hotel.
As is routine with the interior minister, he sought to shift blame for the alleged threat on a “conspiracy” against Pakistan, without offering much evidence to support his claims. “The tour has been cancelled on the basis of a conspiracy. This is their [New Zealand’s] problem. The National Crises Management Cell and other institutions had tried to convince them, but New Zealand’s government has taken a unilateral decision,” he said.
To a question, he said he did not believe it was suitable to name the conspirators. “This conspiracy has been hatched to tarnish the image of Pakistan, as its image was going to build up due to the role it is playing for peace in the region,” he claimed, despite ground realities showing that Pakistan’s international image has taken a hit following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, as western media seeks to scapegoat Islamabad—a point repeatedly alleged by senior government ministers.
Responding to a question on whether the New Zealand decision could have been prompted by a restive situation along the Pak-Afghan border, Rashid claimed there was no unrest. “We have evacuated the U.S., Turkish, Greek, German, and Japanese citizens from there,” he said.