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Bangla cancel Pak tour over security fears

Calcutta/ Dhaka: Pakistan remain in the international wilderness after the first tour to the country since the Lahore terror attacks was cancelled on Monday on safety grounds.

It would have been the first tour by an international team since March 2009, when gunmen shot dead eight people and wounded seven Sri Lanka players near the stadium in Lahore.

The two teams had been scheduled to play a Twenty20 and a one-day International on January 12 and 13 respectively, both in Lahore. But Nazmul Hassan, the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) president, stated that the trip had been put off indefinitely amid fears over players’ safety.

“Bangladesh will not visit Pakistan for now,” Hassan said. “We’ve made the decision after considering the overall security situation in Pakistan and the concern that our people have expressed over the safety of their players. We made a commitment to visit Pakistan and it’s almost mandatory for us to tour the country. But we believe safety of players and officials are of highest importance. It’s a national issue.”

Pakistan have had to play their “home” matches in venues ranging from Dubai to London since the attacks. The Bangladesh board had indicated two weeks ago that it was ready to send a team, albeit only after a final security review.

Zaka Ashraf, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman, had said nine days ago that Bangladesh had confirmed the tour was definitely on.

Hassan said the BCB had informed the Pakistan board of its change of heart and added that the team would visit Pakistan if security improves. “We have noticed the security situation in Pakistan has not improved significantly, rather deteriorated,” he said. “We’ve sent a letter to Pakistan three days ago explaining our position. We’ve decided to wait and see.”

Bangladesh had agreed to tour Pakistan in April 2012 but the visit was blocked by the Dhaka high court. Hassan said that he feared Pakistan might now bar its cricketers from playing in the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) in response to the decision.

The PCB though is yet to receive official confirmation that the tour has been cancelled but is unhappy with the reasons Nazmul has given for calling things off.

A PCB spokesman said that the atmosphere in Pakistan was “congenial” for visiting international teams.

“Although no official intimation has so far been received by PCB from BCB regarding this, and the decision to tour Pakistan is the sole prerogative of BCB, however, it is inappropriate to call the security situation in Pakistan as the main reason behind this decision," read a statement.

“A lot of cricket related activity in which many international players have participated in matches held at Karachi and Rawalpindi has recently taken place in Pakistan successfully and without any security issue whatsoever, which in itself reflects that the atmosphere in Pakistan is congenial for any international team visit to the country.”

The statement added: “Moreover, a team of BCB and Bangladesh government jointly visited Pakistan to ascertain the security situation and they left fully satisfied on the subject.

“Now it would only be proper for the new president of BCB to read the report submitted by that team or visit Pakistan before making any such comments on Pakistan's current situation.”