PCB wants security assurance from India
ISLAMABAD (AP) Pakistan's departure for the World Twenty20 remained uncertain on Thursday as both its cricket board and government demanded written assurances from the Indian government for the safety of Pakistan cricketers.
''We are not in a position to give a clearance right now,'' Pakistan's interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told reporters.
''The threats are Pakistan specific. It is our responsibility that our players do not face any kind of pressure when they play. We will not allow our team to travel to India unless we get a written assurance from their government.''
Khan reiterated the Pakistan Cricket Board's worries earlier in the day despite a shift in venue of the match against host India on March 19 from Dharamsala to Kolkata because of security concerns in the hill city.
''How can cricket be played amid threats? Eden Gardens has a capacity of 100,000, what if a stone comes from any side? We are just demanding an even playing field,'' Khan added.
The Pakistan team was originally scheduled to fly out to Kolkata from Lahore on Wednesday but the PCB deferred the team's departure despite the switch in venue.
Earlier on Thursday, PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan briefed the team players and officials in Lahore.
''He (Khan) was hopeful that the security assurances would be given and the information pertaining to the security situation will be furnished to the government of Pakistan for their further directions in this regard,'' the PCB said in a statement.
Shaharyar Khan told the players at the National Cricket Academy in Lahore that the team's departure will only be possible once India gives security assurances and the government of Pakistan also clears the tour.
''In case the government allows travel to India, the team should focus on the game and demonstrate a high level of discipline and commitment,'' he told the players.
Security became a major issue after Virbhadra Singh, chief minister of Himachal Pradesh state, said he would not be able to provide adequate security following opposition from a body of war veterans who blamed Pakistan for militant attacks on Indian soil.
A separate body, the Anti-Terrorist Front of India, had also threatened to disrupt the match in Dharamsala.
The ICC has already made it clear that should Pakistan reach the semifinals, it will play in New Delhi rather than Mumbai, where there has been opposition to cricket relations with Pakistan over the years.
India's external affairs ministry spokesman Vikas Swaroop said international sports events had always been provided with adequate security.
''Recently, the South Asian Federation Games saw good and enthusiastic participation of all contingents including Pakistan,'' Swarup said.
''We are confident that the ICC World T20 will also be a resounding success in all aspects.''
(C.Rajshekhar Rao in New Delhi contributed to this report)