Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid on Friday maintained that the New Zealand cricket team had called off its tour to the country because of an “international 'conspiracy” despite Prime Minister Imran Khan’s assurances of security.
“Some forces wanted to make Pakistan a scapegoat after what has been happening in Afghanistan,” he said while addressing a news conference hours after the New Zealand cricket team cancelled its tour just before the start of the first One Day International (ODI) in Rawalpindi.
However, the minister added that he would not name the conspirators.
Rashid said the New Zealand's security in-charge contacted the government to say that they had a security threat regarding the tour.
“We even requested them to continue the tour without spectators but they refused.”
The minister said PM Imran had also spoken to his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern, who told the premier that they thought an attack could take place as soon as the team left the stadium.
Rashid said there were no security threats to the tour, adding that when the Pakistani security institutions talked to the New Zealand security officials, they could not provide any proof about them. “The tour was cancelled under a conspiracy.”
He added that all Pakistan agencies had tried to persuade New Zealand officials but they still refused to continue the tour.
The minister said New Zealand had sent their security officials to Pakistan four months ago, and the tour went ahead only after they had given their clearance.
Talking about the situation in Afghanistan, he said that Pakistan wanted peace in the neighbouring country and it helped all the countries with the evacuation process.
Rashid said that only 17 days had passed since the formation of the Afghan government. "It is not possible that Afghanistan becomes a Scandinavian country in this short period.”
He said Pakistan was requesting the world community for humanitarian assistance as it did not want anyone to die of hunger in the war-torn country.
Responding to a question regarding England's tour to Pakistan next month, the minister said the British authorities were considering cancelling the tour as well, adding that they would make their decision within the next 24 to 48 hours.
“The government has completed its arrangement and it was now up to the England team that would make the call on their own. We are ready to welcome them too as there is no security problem for cricket in our country.”
Separately, British High Commissioner Dr Christian Turner has refuted speculations that his country was involved in the New Zealand team calling off the tour.
“Speculation that British High Commission was involved in PakvsNZ tour being called off are untrue; this was a decision for the New Zealand authorities & taken independently,” he tweeted.
“I recognise that this is a sad day for cricket fans in Pakistan & around the world who were looking forward to the series.”
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