Zaka Ashraf, the head of the PCB, has expressed “serious concerns and alarm” about the ongoing holdup in granting Pakistani cricket fans and journalists travel visas for the World Cup in India. Although Pakistan has been complaining about the delays for some time and the board has written to the ICC about it, this is the first official statement made since the competition began.
Pakistan has already played one game at the World Cup, losing to the Netherlands in Hyderabad. On Tuesday, they will play Sri Lanka at the same location. And on October 14, they play India in Ahmedabad in what is arguably the most eagerly awaited match in the league stage of the competition. However, it appears that there may not be quite as many Pakistanis present as there have been in the press box and the stands thus far.
Ashraf met with Pakistan’s foreign minister Syrus Sajjad Qazi to ask him to raise the matter with India’s ministry of internal affairs.
“The PCB is extremely disappointed to see that journalists from Pakistan and fans are still facing uncertainty about obtaining an Indian visa to cover Pakistan games in ICC World Cup 2023,” the board stated in a statement. “In the interim, PCB has once more emphasized to ICC and BCCI their respective responsibilities.
The PCB has also taken seriously the security risks mentioned in the Indian media and has asked the government to assess the safety of players there. It was crucial that the Pakistani team be secure and in good health.
The ICC had previously stated that it was collaborating with the BCCI to campaign for visas for up to 60 Pakistani journalists who had been granted credentials by the ICC to cover the event. The number of Pakistani supporters who may eventually be permitted to cross the border is unclear, though.
Former PCB chairman (and ICC president) Ehsan Mani claimed in a Pakistani interview with an independent journalist that the ICC and BCCI had promised that visas for citizens of Pakistan would not be a problem.
“Any country that hosts an ICC event signs up to a hosting agreement that clearly says the host country will facilitate the visas of the team, officials, journalists and fans,” Mani stated. “The ICC should have made sure that the visas were issued before the event began. I suggested that visas should be made easier at board meetings with the BCCI and the ICC between 2019 and 2021. Both stated that there would be no issues with this.
“It is an ICC event, and they should have ensured all of this was resolved before the World Cup started.”
The Pakistan cricket team had to postpone a pre-World Cup training camp in Dubai because their tournament visas were only obtained one day before they were supposed to go. Since September 27, the team has been residing in Hyderabad, where they were welcomed with open arms.