New Zealand cricket team departs from Islamabad airport

ISLAMABAD: The New Zealand cricket team, which called off its Pakistan tour unilaterally due to “security” reasons, has arrived at the airport and will leave for Dubai via a chartered flight at 6 pm today.

The Kiwis will fly to their homeland via a chartered flight RJD-232. The chartered plane will take them to UAE and then to New Zealand.

In a statement, Minister for Interior Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed said that the 33-member New Zealand squad will leave Islamabad Airport through a charter flight at 6 pm today for Dubai.

The New Zealand team left Serena hotel at 12:55 pm today and reached the airport at 1:20 pm, he added. The interior minister said that they were being tested for COVID-19 at the airport.

Tour cancelled 

The New Zealand Cricket on Friday backed out of the much-awaited tour, citing a “security alert” from their government. The Pakistani authorities had assured the NZC of complete security but they insisted on abandoning the series.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) in a statement had said that the NZC informed that they had decided to postpone the series due to some security concern and it is their unilateral decision.

“We have assured the New Zealand Cricket of the same. The Pakistan Prime Minister spoke personally to the Prime Minister of New Zealand and informed her that we have one of the best intelligence systems in the world and that no security threat of any kind exists for the visiting team,” the PCB had said.

The PCB had said the security officials with the New Zealand team have been satisfied with security arrangements made by the Pakistan government throughout their stay here.

In a statement announcing the decision, NZC Chief Executive David White had said it was simply not possible to continue with the tour given the advice he was receiving.

“I understand this will be a blow for the PCB, who have been wonderful hosts, but player safety is paramount and we believe this is the only responsible option.”

‘Conspiracy against Pakistan’

Later in the day, the minister for interior termed the cancellation of the New Zealand tour a conspiracy against Pakistan.

Addressing a press conference, the minister while declining to share names of those involved in this conspiracy termed the tour cancellation as an attempt to damage Pakistan’s efforts for peace in the region.

He had said that in order to ensure foolproof security of the foreign team and matches, Pakistan had not only deployed 4000 policemen but also commandos from Pakistan Army’s Special Services Group (SSG) and Pak Army soldiers.

Rashid had said, “We even tried to convince them to play the match without spectators however they were not willing to come.”

The had minister said that the government’s team also reached out to Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was in Dushanbe to participate in the 20th Shanghai Cooperation Organization Council of Heads of State Summit.

In direct conversation, PM Imran Khan had assured New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of complete security to the Kiwis.

“The New Zealand prime minister said there was no issue of a threat and added that the New Zealand government had received intelligence that the team could be attacked when it steps out to go to the stadium”, Sheikh had said.

“It is their decision as we had deployed full security for their team,” he had said.