Islamabad: The uncertainty over Pakistan’s participation in the World Twenty20 Championship finally ended today after the country’s cricket team got government clearance to travel to India following assurances of security from the host nation.
Chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board’s executive committee, Najam Sethi, after a long meeting with Interior Minister Chaudary Nisar Ali Khan, said that the government has given the go ahead to send the team to India.
“The team will fly out tonight for Dubai and onwards to Kolkata,” Sethi said.
“I have some good news for all cricket lovers who have been waiting for a long time that the interior minister has given clearance for the team to travel to India,” he added.
Sethi said the clearance was given after “solid assurances” from the Indian government about providing security to the Pakistan team in India and after speaking to the Pakistan High Commissioner in New Delhi.
“The High Commissioner also met with the Home Secretary in New Delhi today in which the security arrangements were discussed,” he added.
India’s Ministry of External Affairs also issued a statement after the meeting, reiterating that security will be fool-proof for all participating teams.
“The High Commissioner of Pakistan met Home Secretary today in connection with the forthcoming ICC World T20 tournament in India. The discussions were positive,” the MEA spokesperson Vikas Swaroop said in a statement.
“The Home Secretary conveyed to the High Commissioner of Pakistan that all necessary arrangements are being made for all participating countries, as appropriate, including for security of all the participants concerned. Home Secretary reiterated that as in the past all participants will be looked after and there is no cause for concern,” it added.
Due to the delay in travel clearance, Pakistan’s first warm-up match against Bengal tomorrow has been cancelled but the team will take on Sri Lanka on Sunday in its second practice game.
The clearance from the Pakistan government came after Nisar spoke to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is on an official visit to Saudi Arabia.
“The Prime Minister gave approval after being briefed that the Indian Home Minister and Home Secretary had given solid assurances that the Pakistan team would be provided round the clock security in India,” an official source in the PCB told PTI.
The Pakistan government had been insisting since last week that it would not allow the national team to go to India for the mega-event until the Indian government gave written security assurances because of the Pakistan specific threats in India.
After days of uncertainty, the decision to send the team came after getting assurances from the Indian government for providing top security to the Pakistani players, officials, media personnel and fans who will visit India for the matches.
The development came after Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh said that Pakistan team would be given full security and that the World T20 would be held smoothly and all teams should travel to India without any security concerns.
Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also tweeted and sent a message to the Pakistan Cricket Board that top security would be provided to the visiting team in Kolkata.
Because of the security concerns of Pakistan, their marquee clash against India on March 19 has already been moved from Dharamsala to Kolkata after Himachal Pradesh CM Virbhadra Singh expressed inability to provide cover for the visiting side.
PCB Chairman Shaharyar Khan said the clearance from the government was a very positive development.
“People want to see Pakistan play in the World T20 and we also wanted to send the team. But the government rightly had some concerns for the security off the team in India which have been addressed by the Indian government, ICC and BCCI,” he said.
Khan had earlier said that if Pakistan didn’t go to India for the World T20, the PCB could incur losses of around USD 15 million which was a big amount at this time.