This is not cricket
It is quite obvious that only the endorsement of Prime Minister Imran Khan, who also captained the Pakistan cricket team, enabled Pakistan's minister for Science and Technology, Fawad Hussain to have the audacity and gumption to make certain unsavoury remarks on the Sri Lankan cricket team refusing to tour Pakistan citing security reasons. A frustrated Fawad Hussain blamed India for having influenced Sri Lanka in calling-off the Pakistan tour. He further alleged that players were threatened that if they went ahead with the Pakistan tour, their IPL prospects could be endangered.
This Pakistani Minister, who has been more vocal than necessarily particularly in the wake of scrapping of Article 370, is well known for his list of faux pas moments that have embarrassed his government. Regardless, his latest goof-up in alleging Indian hand in prevailing over Sri Lanka in sabotaging the Pakistan trip has exceeded all limits. It is worth noting that only a decade ago, in 2009, the then Sri Lankan team touring Pakistan, on its way to Gaddafi Stadium Lahore was attacked by terrorists owing allegiance to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). This incident resulted in the loss of eight and injury of several members of the Sri Lankan entourage. Since the dastardly incident, there is a visible reluctance on the part of cricketers making a trip to Pakistan because of the deteriorating security situation. Although the Sri Lankan cricketers did pay a visit to Lahore in 2017, today the security scenario tensed with Pakistan engulfed by terror attacks. These attacks are largely a result of its own machinations and make it almost possible for players to undertake a tour despite lucrative allowances.
In this context, it is pertinent to point out that last week the Sri Lankan Cricket Board held a meeting and its Chief Security Advisor, Air Marshal Roshan Goonetileke briefed the players about the security situation in Pakistan and the Chief Selector, Asantha De Mel explained in detail about the selection policy for future tours. According to him, players have the freedom to decide if they are willing to go or not go on certain tours with risks. Following this, ten cricketers of the side immediately decided against going to Pakistan. This, further, places doubt on statements made by the Pakistani side of Indian involvement.
With many wanted terrorists deliberately released into the public, notably Maulana Masood Azhar of the Jaish, players belonging to a country friendly to India will find it very challenging to cope with the stress of playing in Pakistan. It is unfortunate that Imran Khan who himself once played the gentlemen's game has now resorted to making such claims and using Fawad Hussain as a loose cannon while continuously encouraging him to make irresponsible statements.
It is certain that Imran Khan is getting frustrated by his glaring failure to elicit support from Muslim nations on the matter of Kashmir. His recent defeat at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session in Geneva has only compounded this frustration. Pakistan was represented by their Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi while India was represented by a delegation led by a Secretary level officer. The cogent and logical arguments put forward by the Indian side were enough to expose the Pakistani rhetoric which was based on fabrication and malicious propaganda. Thus, such efforts ended with Pakistan being shown in an adverse light as the hub of terror in the region.
To add to these facts are the tepid responses of Muslim nations that Pakistan was looking to for support against India. Recently, foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Abdul al Jubeir and Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahayan were in Islamabad to offer what amounted to no more than a token show of support and solidarity. Similar responses have been coming from other gulf countries as well and there have been no signs of any overwhelming support forthcoming.
Dejected by the lack of support in Geneva, Minister Qureshi, addressing the media on the sidelines, didn't rule out the possibility of an accidental war with India. Such an uncalled for and completely avoidable remark when Indo-Pak ties are at rock bottom is nothing but a reflection of war hysteria promoted by Islamabad.
Pakistan's frustration was further demonstrated when Prime Minister Imran Khan on September 13, while addressing a rally in Muzaffarabad in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) labelled Prime Minister Modi as a coward for his alleged atrocities in Kashmir with the help of massive troop deployment. This is Imran Khan's third trip to PoK since the abrogation of Article 370. It is more than evident that the Pakistan Prime Minister is trying to provoke the Kashmiri people on both sides to support him as he is going to act as an Ambassador of the Kashmiri people before the UN in the forthcoming meeting this month. In his belligerent rhetoric, he castigated the RSS for its anti-Muslim agenda and vowed not to disappoint the Kashmiri people.
Imran Khan's high voltage anti-Indian outbursts are reminiscent of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's uncivilised rhetoric at the UN in the wake of the 1965 Indo-Pak war. His most objectionable remarks led to a walkout by the Indian delegation from the Security Council. Bhutto's political end is well-etched in history despite the fact that he was a born and bred politician while Imran has more cricket in his career than politics. But his recent actions do not befit a cricketer. Let Imran Khan be reminded again – what you are doing is not cricket. Let Kashmir be handled by India as its own internal matter. You have to set your own field closing all gaps lest the target set is unachievable.
(The author is a retired IPS officer, a security analyst and the former National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Mauritius. The views expressed are strictly personal)