Miandad calls for Karachi boycott
The itinerary for England's winter tour of Pakistan has been finalised for several weeks, but the grumblings about the Pakistan Cricket Board's decision to overlook Karachi as a Test venue show no sign of abating.
Javed Miandad, a vocal critic of the PCB's perceived lack of will in pushing Karachi as a venue, has now called on fans to stage a silent protest at the decision, and has advocated a boycott of the solitary one-day international that has been scheduled for the series.
According to a report in The News in Pakistan, Miandad, the former captain and coach said: "We must let everyone know that the people of Karachi are upset and fed up at their city being constantly labelled a security risk to visiting teams. If the people boycotted the ODI it would give a clear message to the England team and the rest of the world that the people of Karachi are educated and enlightened enough that they would not tolerate cricket in their city on the terms of foreign teams."
Miandad, Karachi-born and bred, called recently for the tour to be cancelled, reasoning that the threat of terrorism existed everywhere around the world now and that one city shouldn't be singled out. "If cricket can go on in London and other countries despite bomb attacks," he argued, "then what is different about Karachi?"
The PCB is adamant that by getting England to play at least one ODI in Karachi, they will set a precedent for teams to play Tests there in the future. Miandad disagreed with this stance: "I think the weak stand of the board will only encourage teams to constantly keep on rejecting Karachi as a security threat."
Incidentally, when the PCB convinced India to play an ODI in Karachi last year, it was hailed by the board as an achievement that would compel touring teams to play Tests in the city. When Sri Lanka played last October, it seemed to have worked but with England's refusal, the status of the city has once again come under threat.
Meanwhile, in comments to the same newspaper, the chairman of the PCB, Shaharyar Khan, also expressed his unhappiness at having to face constant objections from touring teams about Karachi and other venues in the country.
He urged touring teams will to be more understanding about the nature of terrorist threats, arguing like Miandad, that no place in the world was safe anymore. "We can't keep on surrendering to terrorists by raising doubts about a venue for security reasons all the time. If we do that we are allowing the terrorists to win because that is what they want - to disrupt normal life and cricket."
He also hinted at the financial compulsions that forced the PCB's hand. "Obviously, the decision to have England play an ODI in Karachi was supported by both governments and the boards. All of us wanted the tour to go ahead, neither wanted the cancellation of either this year's series or Pakistan's return visit next year. The PCB would have lost around US$10 million in TV fees and gate money as a result of cancellation."
Karachi has been put forward as a Test and ODI venue for the visit by India from January next year and although the itinerary is far from finalised, there have been indications in the past week that India - pending a decision from the government - might not raise objections. The chairman did warn, however: "We are pressing for a strong case and there has been a favourable response from India so far. But if something major happens in the coming weeks then it is understood that the situation changes accordingly."