Pakistan on Wednesday alleged that a threatening email was sent to the New Zealand cricket squad from India, which prompted the Kiwis to call off the tour of the country. This elicited a strong reaction from India, with Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Arindam Bagchi calling it “baseless propaganda” and saying that Pakistan should first take “action against terrorism emanating from its soil”.
Last week, New Zealand pulled out of their limited-overs tour of Pakistan minutes before their first match in Rawalpindi because of a “security alert” from their government — a decision that comes as a setback to the host nation, which has not seen much international cricket since a bus carrying Sri Lankan players was targeted by gunmen in 2009.
Speaking at a press conference, Pakistan’s Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry alleged that a fake post was created in August under Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan militant Ehsanullah Ehsan’s name which told the New Zealand cricket board and government to refrain from sending the team to Pakistan as it would be “targeted”.
“Pakistan Cricket Board officials, the interior ministry security team, everyone went to them and asked them to share the threat … [but] they were as clueless as us,” he was quoted as saying by Dawn News.
He said that on August 24, New Zealand opener Martin Guptill’s wife received an email threatening her husband from ID with the username “Tehreek-i-Labbaik”. “When we investigated further, we discovered some facts. Firstly, this email is not affiliated with any social media network […] and only one email has been generated from this account,” he said.
He further said that a second threatening email was sent to the New Zealand team using the ID, Hamza Afridi a day later. He claimed that investigating authorities discovered that the email was sent from a device associated with India. “It was sent using a virtual private network (VPN) so the location was shown as Singapore,” he claimed.
He said that the same device had 13 other IDs, nearly all of which were Indian names. “The device used to send the threat to the New Zealand team belonged to India. A fake ID was used but it was sent from Maharashtra,” he claimed.
He said that the interior ministry had registered a case and had requested Interpol for assistance and information on the Tehreek-i-Labbaik ProtonMail and the ID of Hamza Afridi.
“This is unfortunate. We believe this is a campaign against international cricket. The International Cricket Council (ICC) and other bodies must take notice,” he said.
“India has been disappointed that Pakistan couldn’t be made a scapegoat and it’s thinking that there would be civil war [in Afghanistan] and so much killing and slaughter that there would be a rush of refugees here — not a single refugee has come…Pakistan is a great nation and has great security agencies and army. There is an elected government and no one can isolate us. We will move forward,” the interior minister further said.
On Tuesday, Chaudhry had claimed that his country was paying a price for saying no to the US on allowing American military bases on its soil.
Following New Zealand, England also pulled out of their upcoming tour of Pakistan in October.
On Saturday, PCB Chairman Ramiz Raja on Saturday exhorted his players to use their anger in becoming a top cricket outfit. “Release your frustration and anger by channeling it towards your performance. Take out your frustration in the coming World Cup by performing well,” said the new PCB chief.
“Once you become a world-class team, people will start lining up to play. Everyone will want to play against you. So, I want us to learn from this, move forward and keep strong. There is no need to be disappointed,” he said.
Raja also criticised what he called the “Western bloc” in a video statement.
“I am severely disappointed in England’s withdrawal but it was expected because this western bloc gets united unfortunately and tries to back each other. So you can take any decision on the basis of security threat and perception. There was a sense of anger because first New Zealand got away without sharing information about the threat they were facing.”
He added, “Our interest is that cricket will not stop in our country and if the cricket fraternity will not take care of each other then there’s no point to it. New Zealand, then England, now we have a West Indies series that can also be hit, and Australia who is already reconsidering. This – England, Australia, New Zealand – is all one block. Who can we complain to? We thought they were our own but they haven’t accepted us as theirs.”
(With agency inputs)