ISLAMABAD: A two-member team left for India Monday morning to review the security situation ahead of a possible visit by the Pakistan cricket team for participation in the ICC T20 World Cup which kicks off in Kolkata on March 16, immigration officials at the Wagah border confirmed.
The team comprises Director Federal Investigation Agency Usman Anwar and Pakistan Cricket Board Chief Security Officer Retired Col Azam Khan, and is expected to be joined in New Delhi by a Pakistan High Commission official.
The officials will assess whether the security situation is suitable for the visit by the cricket team, amid threats from Indian extremist and militant organisations. During the visit, they will meet senior Indian security officials and assess the lodging and boarding arrangements for the players.
"The team will meet the Himachal Pradesh chief minister and the state police chief and prepare a report which will be sent to the PCB and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar," the statement said.
An interior ministry statement issued on Sunday said the Indian High Commission had issued visas to member of the team.
In a press conference on Saturday, the Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar had said that the threats to the Pakistani cricketers were credible and hinted that its scheduled departure for India could be delayed until the security officials’ delegation gave its clearance.
"The trip can be delayed until we are sure that they will be safe. We want to ensure our team is provided complete security in India and this is the responsibility of the Indian government and the International Cricket Council," he had said.
The government’s scepticism appears to be justified after the chief minister of the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh refused to provide security for a World T20 tie featuring Pakistan.
Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh said last Sunday that the match should be moved to another venue out of respect for those killed in an assault by militants on the Pathankot air force base in neighbouring Indian Punjab.
He threatened not to provide security for Pakistan’s players at the Himachal Pradesh cricket ground in the Himalayan town of Dharamsala where the match is due to take place.
This had prompted former cricket star and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan to say that the Pakistani cricket team should not participate in the tournament following the chief minister’s refusal to provide security.
"Amid this situation, I don’t believe the Pakistan team should play in Himachal Pradesh," he said in a statement.
Indian cricket board secretary Anurag Thakur earlier accused the state of playing politics and said the country regularly provided security for Pakistani sportsmen and women.
"The venues of the World Cup matches were decided one year ago, the allotment of matches was decided six months ago," said Thakur.
"By claiming that you cannot provide security, you are only giving credence to Pakistani claims that there is a security threat to their team in India. It's about the country's image."