- Interior minister says there was no 'threat information or alert'
Following New Zealand’s decision to 'unilaterally cancel the series' with Pakistan, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said that the development is part of a conspiracy to malign the country's image.
In a hurriedly-arranged press conference after the announcement shook the cricketing as well as the political fraternities, Rashid said on Friday that Prime Minister Imran Khan told his New Zealand counterpart, Jacinda Ardern, that there was no issue of security in the country.
"While she acknowledged that there was no security threat, PM Jacinda Ardern insisted to Khan that they have information that when the team goes out, it could be attacked,” said Rashid during the press conference.
"(However) Our institutions do not have any threat information. We did not receive any threat alert.”
Rashid added that Pakistan had deployed commandos from the Special Services Group (SSG), soldiers as well as 4,000 police personnel for the matches.
"We also tried to convince them to play the match without spectators. But they did not agree to it," he revealed.
When asked by a reporter if the visit cancellation was part of a broader scheme and if India was involved, the minister said: “I don’t want to take any country’s name as we are a responsible country.
“We want cricket to flourish here but this was an effort to dent our image,” he added.
He also said this is not a failure of any ministry as New Zealand’s security team studied everything and cleared it.
We also tried to convince them to play the match without spectators. But they did not agree to it: Interior minister Sheikh Rashid
Earlier on Friday, in a major setback, the cricket series between Pakistan and New Zealand was cancelled, confirmed the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) in a statement, minutes after the first One-Day International was supposed to start.
The development came as a major blow for Pakistan, and its efforts to revive regular international cricket on its soil. New Zealand were touring Pakistan for the first time in 18 years.
The news also came as a surprise as New Zealand had earlier given the formal go-ahead to its cricket team’s tour to Pakistan.
The approval came after their independent consultant Reg Dickason gave the green-light to security arrangements in Pakistan following a week-long pre-tour check.