Political situation in Pakistan takes a turn for the worse December 28, 2007

Assassination casts doubt over Zimbabwe tour

Cricinfo staff

The immediate fate of Zimbabwe's tour to Pakistan hangs in delicate balance following the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, an incident that has sparked violence throughout the country.

Zimbabwe are due to arrive in Pakistan on January 12 and are scheduled to play two warm-up matches as well as a series of five ODIs, beginning January 26. But that schedule was thrown into doubt following yesterday's suicide attack which killed Bhutto shortly after an election campaign rally in Rawalpindi. Since then, the main urban centres of Pakistan - including Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad - have witnessed heavy rioting and violence.

Understandably, given the proximity of the incident, no decision has been taken yet. The nation is in official mourning for three days, a stance echoed by Nasim Ashraf, chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). "This is a huge national tragedy and a time of mourning for the whole country. I feel it is not appropriate to talk about cricket just now. We will look at the situation in 2-3 days," Ashraf told Cricinfo.

Another senior board official said the Zimbabwe board had not been in touch yet. "Nobody from the Zimbabwe board has yet got in touch with us about the situation," the official told Cricinfo. When asked specifically whether the tour would go ahead, he said, "As of this immediate moment, it is on. But ultimately your guess is as good as mine."

Zimbabwe play their first ODI in Hyderabad, another city particularly badly hit by a night of rioting; they are also scheduled to spend considerable time in Karachi, before playing in Multan, Faisalabad and Sheikhupura.

Clouding the matter further is the fate of the general elections, which were scheduled to be held on January 8, days before the tourists arrive. In the aftermath of the assassination, there are suggestions they may be postponed. In either case, however, reports are warning that further violence in coming days may be inevitable, extending a year of already tremendous political tumult in the country.

Australia, who are due to tour Pakistan in March, have adopted a wait-and-see policy. They are due to send a security delegation to the country in February, after which they will decide on the tour.