British govt distances itself from cancellation of England’s tour to Pakistan

UK envoy Christian Turner also appears on various Pakistani TV channels in an attempt to dispel the impression


Our Correspodent September 21, 2021
British High Commissioner to Pakistan Christian Turner. SCREENGRAB

ISLAMABAD:

The British government on Tuesday distanced itself from the decision of England Cricket Board (ECB) to cancel tours of its men’s and women’s cricket teams to Pakistan as its envoy said the British High Commission did not advise against the tour on security grounds.

England withdrew both the men’s and women’s teams from next month’s tour of Pakistan on Monday, three days after New Zealand abandoned their tour to the country amid ‘security fears’.

“I share the deep sadness of cricket fans that England will not tour Pakistan in October. I am sad,” said British High Commissioner Christian Turner in a video message posted on his official Twitter handle.

The British envoy also appeared on different Pakistani news channels in an attempt to dispel the impression the decision had anything to do with the British government or had any political motive behind it.

“This was a decision made by the ECB, which is independent of the British government, based on concerns for player welfare. The British High Commission supported the tour, did not advise against it on security grounds and our travel advice for Pakistan has not changed,” Turner insisted.

He went on to add that he was at the forefront of bringing International cricket to Pakistan.

“I have been a champion of international cricket’s return to Pakistan and will redouble my efforts in advance of England’s autumn 2022 tour,” he said.

Also read: Pakistan paying price for saying ‘absolutely not’: Fawad

Despite the cancelation of the England Cricket tour that would have been the first since 2005, the British High Commissioner hoped that international cricket would return to Pakistan soon.

“I hope that we’ll soon hear the roar of full cricket stadiums again. In the end cricket will be victorious,” he said.

The ECB’s decision to call off the tour came days after New Zealand refused to go ahead with the tour, their first since 2003, on the security grounds. The visit was called off just hours before the Pakistan and New Zealand were to play the first One day international at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium.

Soon after the development, the ECB said it would also review the upcoming tour to Pakistan. And on Monday, the ECB said it would not be visiting Pakistan citing mental stress of the players rather than the security reasons.

That triggered a strong reaction from the newly appointed PCB chairman Ramiz Raja, who said Pakistan was “used and binned”.

Read more: 'Western bloc' has let Pakistan down, PCB chief says

The government ministers also questioned the decision with some linking it with the current situation in Afghanistan. Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told reporters after the Cabinet meeting that withdrawal of England and New Zealand teams from cricket series against Pakistan was a result of saying “absolutely not” by Prime Minister Imran Khan to the United States.

The information minister was referring to the statement the premier had given in response to a question about the possibility of allowing the US to establish an air base in Pakistan for counter terrorism purposes.

Observers say the chaotic exit of the US and NATO forces from Afghanistan last month may jeopardise Pakistan’s ties with certain western countries. The reason for this is that there is a view in the western capitals that Pakistan was responsible for their defeat in Afghanistan.

The US and their allies may put pressure on Pakistan or try to punish it for its role in Afghanistan.

Since the Taliban took control of Kabul, Pakistan has been urging the international community to stay engaged with Afghanistan.

On Monday, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi urged the United States to unfreeze $9.5 billion foreign reserves of Afghanistan as he was of the view that economic collapse of Afghanistan would not serve anyone’s purpose.

But the US and other western countries are unlikely to provide the much needed economic relief to the Taliban government though they have pledged $1.2 billion in humanitarian assistance that would be distributed through the UN agencies.

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