Former Taliban commander Ehsanullah Ehsan says the IS set-up in Pakistan is preparing for an attack on New Zealand players.

 

New Delhi: New Zealand’s cricket tour of Pakistan, slated for next month, has come under terror threat with an imminent possibility of the touring cricketers being attacked by one of the many terror groups active in the volatile region.

This tour, in which New Zealand will be playing three One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and five Twenty-20 matches, is scheduled to be held from 17 September to 3 October, during which the ODIs will be played in Rawalpindi, while the shorter version of the game will be played in Lahore.

The match schedule was announced by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) on 5 August. The PCB thanked New Zealand Cricket (NZC) for agreeing to play two additional T-20 matches. The New Zealand team will be traveling to Pakistan after nearly 18 years; the last time they had gone there was in 2003.

Former Taliban commander Ehsanullah Ehsan, who was closely associated with one of the factions of Taliban before agreeing to surrender to the Pakistan army in 2017 and then escaping from their “in-home” custody in January 2020,  said that the Islamic State (IS) set-up in Pakistan was engaged in preparing for the attack on New Zealand players. It is pertinent to mention that the cadre comprising these Pakistan-based terror groups move from one organization to the other and someone who is today allied to the IS might tomorrow join the Jaish-e-Mohammed or Lashkar-e-Tayyaba.

In March 2009, the cavalcade carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team was attacked by a local terror group comprising 12 gunmen near the Gaddafi stadium in Lahore and this had resulted in the death of six policemen and two civilians, apart from causing injuries to six Sri Lankan cricketers. The daring morning attack, which went on for more than 10 minutes in the heart of Lahore, ended with the attackers escaping on motorcycles.

For more than 10 years, no international team toured Pakistan after the attack. It was only in December 2019 that Sri Lanka agreed to play there. The Sunday Guardian reached out to both the International Cricket Council (ICC) and NZC for a response on these developments. In its response, Richard Boock, manager, public affairs, New Zealand Cricket, told The Sunday Guardian that on the matter of security, the body goes by the advice it receives from an independent team of consultants. “What I can say is that we commission an independent team of consultants to undertake pre-departure and on-going security assessments ahead of every overseas tour—and Pakistan is no exception. The NZC is confident in the quality of the advice it receives from this source,” Boock said. No response was received from the ICC.