By: Aamir Saeed
Strained relations between nuclear rivals India and Pakistan have left no room for cricket diplomacy, well placed sources in the Interior Ministry told Business Recorder. “Chaudhary Nisar, Interior Minister, rightly expressed his concern over decisions being taken unilaterally by the Babus of the Pakistan Cricket Board which clearly had implications on bilateral relations – a stance that was later backed by the Prime Minister,” an official said on condition of anonymity.
“Two Pakistani dictators namely Zia and Musharraf had successfully employed cricket diplomacy which did lead to thawing of relations between the two South Asian countries. But the two were dictators unlike the two decision makers of the Pakistan Cricket Board,” the source added.
In 1987, the then military dictator, General Zia ul Haq, visited India to attend a Pak-India cricket match and met Rajiv Gandhi, which helped ease tensions. And in 2005, General Pervez Musharraf went to India to watch a cricket match and met the then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh which revived the stalled dialogue between the two countries.
In 2011, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the then Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani met on the sidelines of the World Cup after India and Pakistan qualified for semi-finals which eased tensions between the nuclear rivals. According to a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the BCCI and Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) in 2014, it was Pakistan’s turn to play host in 2015 however due to security concerns Pakistan offered to play India in the United Arab Emirates.
Pakistan government did not intervene or express any reservations over the actions of the two members of the PCB namely Chairman PCB Shaharyar Khan and member of the Executive Committee Najam Sethi following the debacle in India in October where they failed to meet BCCI president Shashank Manohar who, they claimed, had invited them to India, their ignominious return and BCCI claim that the Indian government would decide the offer to play in India.
It was only after the BCCI offered limited series and that too in India that Chaudhary Nisar stepped in to the fray. An official of the cricket board told Business Recorder on Wednesday that Pakistani cricket team is not ready to play in India keeping in mind the ongoing ‘unrest and chaos’ in India.
“We want to know from the BCCI as to why it is not ready to play in the UAE,” he said, adding that it was Pakistan’s turn to host the series as per the MoU and the series should be played at a neutral place like the UAE. The official said that it is not just a matter of bilateral cricket series but also who would benefit financially from the series. “Even if Pakistan agrees to play in India, the question that needs attention is who will get broadcast rights for the series,” he said. At the moment, Ten Sports is mandated to broadcast by the PCB while Star India holds the broadcasting rights for matches organised by the BCCI, he said.
“Millions of dollars are at stake if Pakistan acquiesces to Indian insistence that the series be played in India,” he said. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is also the PCB Patron-in-Chief, said in a statement on Monday that cricket team should not visit India without getting the government’s prior consent. The prime minister also asked the PCB not to engage in any kind of talk with their Indian counterparts with regard to the restoration of cricketing ties between the two countries. But this time, the cricket diplomacy also appears to be failing to help normalise relations between both the countries, better known as arch-rivals.
Source: Business Recorder