Mohammad Isam is senior sports reporter at the Daily Star in Dhaka
Bangladesh has postponed its tour of Pakistan following a court order that set a four-week embargo on the national team's plans. The decision, communicated on Thursday to the PCB by the BCB's acting CEO Nizamuddin Chowdhury, is the latest twist to a long-running saga that began last December; the tour itself, comprising two limited-overs games, had been finalised last weekend to take place in Lahore at the end of April.
The order came on a day when Pakistan said it had sent a 70-page security plan for the tour to the ICC and announced details of match tickets that were to have gone on sale next week. The events that followed will have added to doubts over whether the tour will indeed go ahead at all.
The PCB reacted sharply to the news. "It is astonishing to note that a matter lacking any legal issue has been dragged in the court by petitioners who appear to have vested interest and want to jeopardise Pakistan-Bangladesh cricketing relations," the statement said.
"It is extremely disturbing to note for the PCB and Pakistan cricket fans and world cricketing nations that such an adverse order has been passed to block a bilateral cricket series."
The court order, delivered by Justices Farid Ahmed and Sheikh Hasan Arif on Thursday afternoon, was in response to a writ petition filed in the morning by a university teacher and a Supreme Court lawyer who, citing concerns over security, challenged the BCB's decision to send the team at the end of April for a three-day tour.
It also said that in the interim period the sports secretary, the National Sports Council chief and BCB chief Mustafa Kamal justify the decision for the tour.
Azim, one of the lawyers for the petitioners, said: "The ICC asked for a security plan from PCB. They have still not given it. Pakistan is not safe for any foreign teams now. Their own media says so. For that reason, no country agrees to play there. Under the same circumstances, we should not go there also."
The petition echoes the prevailing public sentiment surrounding the tour since it was first announced. The mood against the tour - which has been called short-sighted and opportunistic, at the cost of players' safety - grew following the confirmation of dates on Sunday. The tour, of immense importance to Pakistan, is widely seen as a quid pro quo for Kamal getting the Pakistan-Bangladesh joint nomination for the ICC vice-presidency; with the latter in almost certain cold storage, the tour has become an even more complex issue. Kamal's own flip-flops on issues relating to the tour have added to the confusion.
Adding to the complexity is the security angle. The ICC's stated stand is that it has no role in clearing tour; its remit extends to checking to see whether its officials can be deployed. It has, however, scripted its own escape clause by introducing a "special dispensation" that would allow non-neutral officials where the situation did not allow for neutrals.
The security issue prompted the Federation of International Cricketers' Associations (FICA) to issue a strongly worded statement against the tour.
"This decision of whether Bangladesh should tour Pakistan needed to be a concise and transparent process," FICA CEO Tim May said. "Unfortunately all we have witnessed is seemingly a complete lack of any process and a series of indecisive and contradictory comments, particularly coming from Mustafa Kamal.
"The actions and words of Kamal certainly give the impression of confirming rumors that there has been a deal reached between the PCB and Kamal … What has resulted since has been a series of actions and comments that rather than reassure everyone of the safety of such a tour, only have created heightened apprehensions and doubts amongst players re the safety of the tour and the motives of those involved in the decision."
* The entry initially said four months. It has been corrected to four weeks