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New Zealand abandoned its ongoing tour of Pakistan, citing a security risk

New Zealand's cricket team Black caps were supposed to play three One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and five Twenty-20 matches against Pakistan hosted by Pakistan, from 17 September to 3 October, during which the ODIs were to be played in Rawalpindi, while T20 matches were to be played in Lahore.

However, moments before the first ball was bowled New Zealand abandoned its ongoing tour of Pakistan, citing a security risk from their government. The Black Caps had landed in Pakistan to face the Men in Green nearly after 18 years; the last time they had visited Pakistan was in 2003. New Zealand's abandonment of the tour came as a setback for the host nation as the country had played in exile and hadn't seen significant international cricket since 2009 when a bus carrying Sri Lankan players was targeted by 12 shooters near the Gaddafi stadium in Lahore and which resulted in the death of six policemen and two civilians and caused injuries to six Sri Lankan cricketers. The morning attack went on for more than 10 minutes in the centre of Lahore, the attackers ultimately escaped on their motorcycles leaving behind numerous casualties and injured.

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New Zealand's cricket tour of Pakistan came under terror threat with an impending possibility of the touring cricketers getting attacked by one of the many active terror groups in the region. Former Taliban commander Ehsanullah Ehsan, who was closely associated with one of the blocks of Taliban before he surrendered to the Pakistan army in 2017 and then escaped from their " in-home" custody in January 2020, made a Facebook post in which he said that the Islamic State (IS) set-up in Pakistan was engaged in preparing for the attack on New Zealand players. Following which on August 24, New Zealand's opener Martin Guptill's wife received an electronic mail threatening her husband from ID with the username"Tehreek-i-Labbaik". A second threatening electronic mail was dispatched to the New Zealand team using the ID, Hamza Afridi. Despite the threats, New Zealand's team travelled to Pakistan and continued to play practice matches until the very end when the matches were cancelled.

Pakistan Security outside the cricket stadium PCB and Govt of Pakistan made foolproof security arrangements for all visiting teams- PCBVOA News

The intelligence of the threat came from Five Eyes, an intelligence alliance of New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. The threat was only deemed credible before the match and led to discussions between NZC and their counterparts at the Pakistan Cricket Board, and Pakistan and New Zealand Prime Ministers Imran Khan and Jacinda Ardern. PM Khan tried to persuade PM Ardern. Pakistan Cricket Board said in a statement, " PCB and Govt of Pakistan made foolproof security arrangements for all visiting teams. We've assured the New Zealand cricket board of the same … we've one of the best intelligence systems in the world and that no security danger of any kind exists for the visiting team." But PM Ardern was adamant about the safety of their players she said, " I know how disappointing it'll be for everyone that the game hasn't gone ahead, but we support the decision that's been made. Player safety has to be paramount." Thereafter on September 18th, the Black Caps were headed home without playing a single match.

PCB and Pakistan were furious at New Zealand's sudden withdrawal from matches. Shoaib Akhtar Pakistan's former test bowler tweeted and bashed at New Zealand saying, " NZ just killed Pakistan's cricket." Pakistan's pace bowler Mohammad Amir condemned New Zealand he said that Pakistan will forgive them because they're a loving nation but this act will come to bite them (NZ) in the future. PCB's chairman said that they'll take the matter to the International Cricket Council they said it was a move to ruin Pakistan's cricket.

ALSO READ: Pakistan blames India for planning to sabotage the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)

Denying the threats present to the New Zealand's cricket team in their home ground Pakistan alleged that the fake threatening emails were transmitted to the New Zealand cricket team from India, which pressed New Zealand to call off a tour of the country. They said that the name Hamza Afridi was purposefully used to show that a terrorist threat is present in Pakistan. Pakistan Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said, "This email was generated from India through a VPN showing the site of Singapore."Chaudhry added that the West Indies team, due to arrive in December, had also been transmitted a threat that he said was fake and that they are being "targeted".

India dismissed Pakistan's claims as" foundationless propaganda". Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said, "It isn't new for Pakistan to engage in groundless propaganda against India. Pakistan would do well to expend the same labour in setting its own house in order and taking credible and verifiable action against terrorism emanating from its soil and terrorists who have to constitute safe sanctuaries there … The international community is well aware of Pakistan's credentials when it comes to terrorism. This is acknowledged by none other than its leadership, which continues to glorify terrorists like Osama Bin Laden as' martyrs'."

Keywords: Cricket, Pakistan, New Zealand, attack threats


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