Inter-Provincial Coordination Minister Ehsan Ur Rehman Mazari on Sunday termed politics the only impediment to the restoration of cricket between Pakistan and India.
In an exclusive interview on Dawn News programme ‘Doosra Rukh’ that will be aired at 7pm tonight, the PPP leader said the government was willing to indulge in “cricket diplomacy” with the arch-rival neighbour.
Pakistan lacks a federal sports minister and sports-related matters fall under the domain of the inter-provincial coordination minister.
“Sports should never be looked at through a political lens,” he said, referring to India’s baseball team that visited Pakistan recently.
“If the Indian baseball team can visit Pakistan, why not the cricket team?” Mazari asked. “We say that, ‘India we are ready to play’, but they are reluctant.”
He mentioned how foreign players are taking part in Pakistan Super League which reaffirms that security is not an issue here. “PSL is being played in the country which also has players from abroad.”
Reiterating that cricket between the two countries was not being played because of political issues, Mazari said India will be officially invited if the Pakistan Cricket Board asks to do so.
“If the PCB chairman asks us, we can send a request through the Foreign Office,” the minister said.
He also questioned why then PCB chairman Ramiz Raja would move about in a bulletproof vehicle.
“Why would foreign players come and play when the chairman of PCB himself roams around in a bulletproof vehicle?”
The minister also alleged that some players who were not deemed fit in the past were included in the team due to “connections”.
He also highlighted how the Pakistan Olympics Association Chairman retired Gen Arif Hassan was in the post for the past 20 years. “He has framed the constitution in such a way that only he remains the chairman,” Mazari said.
Talking about football, the PPP leader said the game was loved in Karachi’s Lyari and Balochistan’s Quetta. “The Argentinian ambassador told me he would bring female football coaches to train female players.”
The government so far has not given its go-ahead to the PCB for the national team’s participation in the 2023 ODI World Cup being staged in India and has reserved its decision in this regard, Dawn has learnt.
The Asia Cup 50-over event is scheduled to be hosted by Pakistan in September, around a month before the 10-nation World Cup starts in India.
Sources in the federal government and the PCB told Dawn that when the Board last week sought the government’s permission for the World Cup participation, the government did not give its go-ahead and decided to wait till India’s final decision regarding its participation in the six-team Asia Cup.
“You can’t say that we are going to boycott the upcoming World Cup [in India]. However, the government so far has not given us any assurance or permission. The government, it seems, before taking any final decision, will wait for India’s response regarding the Asia Cup,” a source in the PCB said.