Will Pakistan play the World Cup in India? Bilawal Bhutto–Zardari to lead committee that decides
The committee also includes Pakistan's interior minister, law minister, information minister and minister of inter-provincial coordination, among others
Pakistan's foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari is leading a special committee that will review security arrangements across all five venues for the cricket World Cup to be held this October in India. The goal: to determine whether the Pakistani team should participate or not.
With the BCCI and Indian government refusing to send the India cricket team to Pakistan for the Asia Cup 2023 in August–September, relationships haven't exactly been cordial between the two nations even on the sporting fields for a while. As diplomatic ties remain strained, Pakistan is now trying to play hardball over the World Cup.
As of now, whether Babar Azam & Co will visit India remains doubtful. However, Pakistan's prime minister Shehbaz Sharif has called together a 14-member committee to opine.
The committee includes Pakistan foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto–Zardari, interior minister Rana Sanaullah, law minister Azam Nazeer Tarar, information minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, the advisor on Kashmir affairs, minister of inter-provincial coordination Ehsan ur Rehman Mazari, chiefs of the national security institutions and the country's foreign secretary Asad Majeed Khan.
In a break from usual protocol, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) had written to Prime Minister Sharif on 27 June to request the federal government’s clearance, before giving the green light for the national cricket team’s participation in the ODI World Cup.
ESPN Cricinfo had reported that they had written to the interior minister and the foreign ministry separately as well, to obtain official clearances to travel to India, and asked after possible reservations against any of the five venues.
The newly formed committee will now scrutinise the security arrangements for all the five venues, including the now notorious Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad, which hosts the inauguration as well as being scheduled as the venue of the India vs Pakistan showdown on October 15. The other four venues are in Hyderabad, Chennai, Bengaluru and Kolkata.
There are indications the committee may depute a high-level security delegation to inspect the venues in person as well.
It remains to be seen how India will react if such a stipulation is proffered, given its own repeated insistence on only playing Pakistan on neutral ground, never on Pakistani soil.
Chairman of the PCB's management committee Zaka Ashraf will travel to Durban, South Africa tonight (8 July), in time for the International Cricket Council (ICC) to hold its annual meetings, scheduled for July 10–13. Presumably, some questions will be raised (and hopefully answered satisfactorily) by both sides at that neutral venue.