KARACHI: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman and Cricket legend Imran Khan warned Wednesday that Pakistan’s national game was being damaged by the government’s involvement in the US-led “war on terror”. Khan, who was responding to the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) decision to relocate the elite eight-nation Trophy from Pakistan to an undecided venue, said association with conflict was hugely damaging.
“From economy to daily life to cricket, everything is hurt in Pakistan only because of our unnecessary involvement in war. Teams are refusing to come to Pakistan because of that war,”
Khan told a foreign news agency.
Former US President George Bush launched his so-called war on terror soon after the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington. Pakistan joined up, providing logistical support to US forces who led an invasion of neighboring Afghanistan and deploying its troops to fight Taliban and Al-Qaeda extremists hunkered down in the northwest of the country.
More than 1,500 people have been killed in militant attacks across Pakistan in the past 19 months and more than 1,500 troops have been killed at the hands of extremists since 2002. Khan, who went into politics after retiring from cricket and heads his Tehreek-e-Insaf party, said tour cancellations have left Pakistan cricket poorer.
“Cricket is suffering financially,” said Khan. “The sooner Pakistan pulls out of the war on terror the better and it will quickly recover from all sorts of problems,” he said. Australia and the West Indies forced Pakistan to play in the neutral venues of Sri Lanka and United Arab Emirates in 2002.
In the years that followed, New Zealand, Australia again and India all refused to tour Pakistan or cut short tours over security fears. Khan accused the cricket world and the ICC of double standards when it came to Pakistan. “Of course there are double standards when it comes to Pakistan. England only toured India because of their financial clout, while Pakistan is left isolated,” said Khan. England returned to India to play two Tests last December after abandoning the last two one-days in a seven-match series following the Mumbai attacks.-SANA