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EDITORIAL: If there were any doubts as to who may have sabotaged the New Zealand cricket team's Pakistan tour those were completely vanquished by federal ministers Fawad Chaudhry and Sheikh Rashid at a joint news conference on Wednesday. They described in great detail how a security scare was created first on a social media platform in the name of former TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan, telling NZ cricket board and government not to send the team to Pakistan claiming that the IS-K had planned to target the team (a similar threat has gone out to West Indies crick board). It was followed up two days later by Sunday Guardian, an Indian newspapers, with an article by one of its bureau chiefs under the title "New Zealand cricket team may face terrorist attack in Pakistan." After a gap of two days, i.e., on August 24, the wife of the Kiwis' opener, Martin Guptil, received an email from [email protected] prtommail.com threatening to kill him during the tour. Investigations now reveal that the email had been sent just hours after the account was created. If that is not suspicious enough, the email, the only one to be generated from that account, was sent via ProtonMail, a secure service. Still, those on a mission persisted in their campaign. When the NZ team went ahead with the tour they struck again, this time sending a threatening email to NZ police using an ID created just 15 minutes earlier from a virtual private network (VPN) showing Singapore as its location with 13 other IDs - nearly all of them having Indian names.

These facts make it more than obvious who had the capacity and the intention to go to such great lengths to hurt Pakistan. It is deeply concerning though that they were to be found out after the damage was done. Sadly, the relevant intelligence agencies have been caught unaware. Questionable also is the way the entire issue has been handled by the NZ authorities. It is worth noting that NZ is part of 'Five Eyes', a post-World War II intelligence sharing alliance, so named because it comprised five English-speaking countries: the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and of course NZ. Japan became a late entrant. More to the point, going by a statement issued by the 'Five Eyes' last October that called for bringing India aboard (to spy on China) that country has joined in by now, even if informally. That seems to explain why the authorities in Wellington refused to disclose the source of the false threats and acted upon them, too. The English Cricket Board (ECB) has also cancelled its men's and women's teams' tour of Pakistan scheduled for next month, citing the flimsy excuse that the players were "mentally stressed". The decision is quite mystifying given that the British High Commissioner in Pakistan has been at pains to clarify that there is no security threat, and that his office's advisory for this country remains unchanged.

So what now? Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the International Cricket Council (ICC) "must take notice of these malicious acts of Indian nationals", also calling on the NZ government to share the specifics of the threat they received. None of this is going to happen. It's been a while since the power base of cricket shifted from England and Australia to India. Generating 70 to 80 percent of the revenue, India now dominates the ICC. As for NZ, it has already demonstrated its interest in protecting the source that caused so much trouble. Pakistan therefore needs to up its guard and thwart its traditional rival's intrigues in their tracks.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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