The PCB has expressed strong displeasure to the ICC over the delay in visas being issued to the Pakistan team, and warned of the adverse impact on the team’s preparations for the World Cup. With the team scheduled to fly out of Pakistan early morning on Wednesday, visas had still not been issued to the squad as of close of working hours on Monday.
The Pakistan board has been in contact with the ICC about the matter all through, and on Monday, less than 48 hours before the team’s scheduled departure, it wrote to the ICC to complain, and say that such inequitable treatment to Pakistan – the only team participating at the World Cup without visas at the moment – will not be tolerated.
In the email, the PCB has asked the ICC what steps the global body intends to take to resolve the issue, and has also asked whether, in line with the obligations of a host board, written confirmations had been provided by the BCCI – or on behalf of the Indian government – that visas will be provided to all participating nations. In July at its annual conference in Durban, the ICC had been told by BCCI that visas for the Pakistan contingent would be facilitated in time. Whether that was put in writing could not be confirmed.
The PCB has also raised the question of whether the inability to provide visas in time for the squad to travel constitutes a breach of the hosting agreement of the World Cup.
As things stand, Pakistan are due to fly out to Dubai in the early hours of Wednesday (September 27), transit there, and then travel to Hyderabad on Wednesday evening. Pakistan are scheduled to play their first warm-up game on Friday, against New Zealand, in Hyderabad.
“It’s a matter of disappointment that the Pakistan team has to go through this uncertainty ahead of the major tournament. We have been reminding [them] about their obligations from last three years and it has all come down to the last two days with our first warm game scheduled on September 29”
News of the delay in visas was first reported by ESPNcricinfo last Friday. Pakistan had planned to undertake a two-day team-bonding trip to the UAE ahead of their arrival in India, but that had to be scrapped because, with their passports with the Indian high commission in Islamabad, they were unable to travel.
“There has been an extraordinary delay in getting clearance and securing Indian visas for the Pakistan team for ICC World Cup,” PCB spokesperson Umar Farooq said in a statement. “We have written to ICC raising our concerns about inequitable treatment towards Pakistan and reminding them of these obligations towards the World Cup.
“It’s a matter of disappointment that the Pakistan team has to go through this uncertainty ahead of the major tournament. We have been reminding [the organisers] about their obligations from last three years and it has all come down to the last two days with our first warm game scheduled on September 29. We were forced to cancel our original plan to organise team-building exercises in Dubai on the way to India. We have had to rework our plan and book new flights, but these plans are subject to issuance of visas.”
According to the PCB, the process for getting the visas began at the end of August, when the board received an invitation letter from the ICC, which formed a part of the application process. Because the Pakistan team was traveling to and from Sri Lanka for the Asia Cup of which it was officially the host, the PCB had sought to submit visa applications without physical passports in the first instance. They were told that was not possible and because passports were needed, the PCB applied finally on September 19, soon after the return of the squad from the Asia Cup.
PCB chairman Zaka Ashraf with BCCI president Roger Binny and vice president Rajeev Shukla in Lahore during the Asia Cup•PCB
Visas between the two countries are usually hostage to the tense relationship between their governments. Neither team has travelled to the other’s country for a bilateral series since Pakistan’s trip to India for a white-ball series in 2012-13.
That equation has affected not just Pakistani player but players of Pakistani origin frm other countries. Two from Netherlands, Shariz Ahmed and Saqib Zulfiqar, both of Pakistan origin, couldn’t travel to Bangalore in late August for a short preparatory camp organised by the Dutch board as the they did not get visas in time.
For the World Cup the KNCB had applied for visas for the Dutch squad on August 8. Every participating teams sends the BCCI a list of names traveling for the World Cup, after which the BCCI sends an invitation letter while simultaneously getting permission from various arms of the Indian government – Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs.
On August 2, the Home Ministry sent a note to BCCI stating, “security clearance of Ministry off Home Affairs is required for the event (World Cup) only if there are foreign participant from the PRC countries ie Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan, foreigners of Pakistani Origin and Stateless persons” (PRC is ‘prior referral category’). Anyone from a PRC country needs a security clearance before a visa is granted.
In the case of Ahmed and Zulfiqar, eventually their visas arrived just days before they were scheduled to travel as part of the Dutch squad to India on September 19. The visas were only cleared only after external intervention.
Usman Khawaja, the Australia opener who was born in Pakistan, had to fly out to India a day later than his team-mates earlier this year after a delay in obtaining a visa. In 2011, he was denied a visa initially before being granted one to play in the Champions League T20 in India for New South Wales. In between he has travelled to India on several occasions.
ESPNcricinfo has sent a query on the delay in visas to Indian government spokesperson. Both the ICC and BCCI have been asked for comment.
Osman Samiuddin is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo