Security cloud over Champions Trophy in Pakistan

June 17th, 2008 - 2:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney/ New Delhi, June 17 (IANS) Even as top International Cricket Council (ICC) officials arrive in Pakistan for the logo launch of Champions Trophy Wednesday, there is a question mark over the tournament itself as some teams and World players’ body raising serious concerns over safety and security of players. The Indian board, however, pooh-poohed the Australian concerns, saying that it had no worries on the security count as the Indian team would be in Pakistan later this month to play in the Asia Cup.

Secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India Niranjan Shah told IANS that security was Pakistan’s concern and India was not bothered much about it. CA, too, had not communicated to him on the issue.

“Security is Pakistan’s concern and they are competent enough to address the issue. In any case, we are playing in the Asia Cup later this month. Moreover, the Champions Trophy is still some months to go and we need not worry about it now itself. Also, we have not received any communication from CA or its players body on their concerns.”

Federation of International Players’ Associations (FICA) chief Tim May claims “absolutely nothing” has changed in the three months after Australia refused to tour the strife-torn country for safety and security reasons, reports The Australian.

Australia, New Zealand and England are understood to have reservations about playing in Pakistan, the report claims.

“FICA is very concerned about the inherent risks of holding such an event in Pakistan in such a landscape of unrest and volatility and opposition to Western countries,” said May.

“FICA is not alone in its concern regarding holding this event in Pakistan, compounded by the timing of the event in terms of the religious celebration of Ramadan and the anniversary of the September 11 attacks in New York.”

After Australia refused to tour Pakistan in March and April for a Test and one-day series, one Australian player reportedly said it would have been “ludicrous” if the team had gone — so bad was the situation.

In conjunction with players’ associations from the competing countries, including the Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA), FICA will commission its own independent report, which should be completed in a fortnight.

Cricket Australia (CA) and the ACA have the ICC’s confidential security report, but will combine to commission another separate security report specific to Australia.

ACA chief executive Paul Marsh said there were concerns but the association would follow the process of making an independent assessment and inform the players before commenting.

CA will raise aspects of the ICC’s security assessment during ICC meetings of Test country chief executives and the executive board in Dubai later this month.

“The welfare of the Australian team and team management is paramount,” CA spokesman Peter Young said.

“But we have a responsibility to world cricket and the continued development of the game as a global sport so we’d like to see the Pakistan tour succeed.”

CA and the ACA rely heavily on Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade advice.

The current DFAT warnings covering Pakistan advise against travel there “due to the very high threat of terrorist attack, sectarian violence and the unpredictable security situation”.

“We continue to receive credible reports indicating terrorists are in the advanced stages of planning attacks,” the DFAT website says. “These attacks could target Western or Australian interests and individuals and places frequented by foreigners and could occur at any time.”

The six-nation Asia Cup, which begins in Pakistan next Tuesday, is considered a “dry run” for the Champions Trophy.

Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates will play in Lahore and Karachi, with Rawalpindi, sister city to Islamabad, being added as a third venue for the Champions Trophy.

However DFAT believes none of these venues are safe, closing its consulates in Karachi and Lahore until further notice for security reasons.

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