New Zealand cricket team flies out of Pakistan amid 'security fears'

33-strong Blackcaps squad reached Islamabad airport from where they took a chartered flight to Dubai


Our Correspondents September 18, 2021
PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD:

New Zealand cricket team flew out of Pakistan on a chartered flight from Islamabad to Dubai on Saturday evening, a day after abandoning its entire tour of the country over security fears.

The Kiwi players and officials underwent rapid Covid-19 tests at the airport. They were allowed to board the flight after all the reports came negative amid tight security protocols.

The visiting team reached the Islamabad International Airport at 8:10pm after being escorted by a presidential level security team. Special security units had taken control of the route between the hotel and the airport.

The kiwi team stayed at the state guest lounge at the airport, where they went through rapid polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for Covid-19 before the departure.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) had given special permission to the chartered plane, which landed at the airport after a two-hour delay.

New Zealand on Friday abruptly abandoned their tour of Pakistan citing a security alert. The Blackcaps quit the series at the last minute citing unspecified security threats despite being given security assurance by Prime Minister Imran Khan to his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern.

A global intelligence alliance had issued the security threat which led to the cancellation of the New Zealand cricket team's tour to Pakistan, according to NZ Herald.

The New Zealand daily, quoting overseas media, reported that the intelligence came from Five Eyes – an intelligence alliance of New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.

In a statement issued earlier in the day, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid said that the 33-strong New Zealand squad had reached the Islamabad airport from where they will take a flight to Dubai.

Rashid had claimed that the tour was cancelled under an international 'conspiracy'.

Read UK has no role in New Zealand cricket tour cancellation: British envoy

Addressing a news conference in Islamabad after the announcement, Rashid had said that he would not name the conspirators. However, he had added that some forces wanted to make Pakistan a scapegoat after what happened in Afghanistan.

Tour called off

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern backed the Kiwi cricket board’s decision to call off the entire tour over the undisclosed security alert, even after assurances from the premier.

The tour was due to get underway with the first of three ODIs in Rawalpindi on Friday but the team did not travel to the stadium.

New Zealand Cricket (NZC) then issued a statement announcing their decision to call off the tour.

"Following an escalation in the New Zealand Government threat levels for Pakistan, and advice from NZC security advisers on the ground, it has been decided the Blackcaps will not continue with the tour," it had said.

The NZC had declined to share details of the security threat and said arrangements were being made for the team's departure.

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