Pakistan fears India series in doubt after stadium blast

November 12th, 2008 - 12:56 am ICT by IANS  

Karachi, Nov 11 (IANS) Pakistan’s sports community fears that India may cancel its cricket tour of the country early next year after a suicide attack rocked a sports complex in Peshawar during the closing ceremony of an atheletic event.A suicide bomber blew himself up at the main gate of the Qayyum Stadium killing two people. But no player was hurt in the blast. There were around 1,200 athletes and more than 10,000 spectators inside the stadium when the bomber struck.

The attack shattered the general belief that terrorists were against the idea of targeting sports events, putting a big question mark over India’s tour of Pakistan in January-February 2009.

“I’m actually fearing that India might not come for the series,” said a former Test cricketer, who pleaded anonymity. “It would be very unfortunate if that happens.”

Former world squash champion Qamar Zaman said it would further tarnish Pakistan’s image as an unsafe place for international sports events. “It is really shocking that the attack was carried out at the sports complex,” he said.

“This blast will further support the stand of the foreign countries not to send their teams to Pakistan. It is really unfortunate for the sports and for the whole country,” said Zaman, the former British Open champion who is a celebrity in Peshawar.

Pakistan’s ex-international athlete Bahri Karam also termed the incident a massive blow to Pakistan sports.

“It disturbs me as a sportsman and as a citizen of Pakistan because it will adversely affect the growth of sports in the country and no foreign team would dare visiting Pakistan,” said Karam, who was inside the stadium when the blast occurred.

Syed Aaqil Shah, the sports minister of the North West Frontier Province of which Peshawar is the capital, condemned the attack saying: “It will harm sports in Pakistan and I condemn this unfortunate incident.”

A wave of suicide bombings in Pakistan has ruined the country’s sports with top cricket, hockey and squash players refusing to visit the country, citing security fears.

Earlier this year, Australia refused to tour Pakistan to play in a cricket series while the International Cricket Council (ICC) was forced to postpone the ICC Champions Trophy after five of the eight competing teams refused to play in the event if held in Pakistan.

No major hockey team has visited the country since 2004 when Lahore hosted the six-nation Champions Trophy. Recently, India refused to send its junior hockey team for a test series because of security apprehensions.

Pakistani squash officials were forced to downgrade the Pakistan Open - the country’s premier squash event - after top players including Egypt’s world number one Amr Shabana decided to skip the event because of security fears.

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