The ICC has confirmed that the Indian government has approved visas for the Pakistan squad travelling to the World Cup, less than 48 hours before the team is due to fly out to Hyderabad via Dubai. The approval came on Monday, hours after the PCB had written to the ICC expressing its displeasure at the delay in the issuance of the visas. At the time they had sent the email, approval for the visas had not been given.
But the delay had already caused the Pakistan team to cancel plans for a pre-World Cup team bonding trip to the UAE.
"Ministry of Home Affairs gives security clearance for issue of visas," an Indian government spokesperson told ESPNcricinfo. "The process is underway." The PCB is expected to receive the passports with visas for its squad on Monday evening.
Matters had reached a head earlier on the day, however, as working hours finished in Islamabad and there was still no news of whether the visas would be issued. Though the Pakistan board had been in regular contact with the ICC all through, it decided to write formally to the governing body to complain, and say that such inequitable treatment to Pakistan - which was the only team participating at the World Cup to wait this long to receive visas - will not be tolerated.
In the email, the PCB asked the ICC what steps the global body intended to take to resolve the issue, and 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.
Pakistan will now fly out to Dubai in the early hours of Wednesday (September 27), transit there, and then travel to Hyderabad on Wednesday evening. They 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.
Before the matter was resolved, PCB spokesperson Umar Farooq said in a statement: "There has been an extraordinary delay in getting clearance and securing Indian visas for the Pakistan team for ICC World Cup. We have written to ICC raising our concerns about inequitable treatment towards Pakistan and reminding them of these obligations towards the World Cup."
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 their submission to the Indian High Commission. 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.
Players of Pakistani origin from other countries have also been affected. Two from Netherlands, Shariz Ahmed and Saqib Zulfiqar, both of Pakistan origin, couldn't travel to Bengaluru in late August for a short preparatory camp organised by the Dutch board as 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 team 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 of 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 Shariz and Zulfiqar, their visas eventually arrived 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.
Earlier this year, Usman Khawaja, the Australia opener who was born in Pakistan, had to fly out to India a day later than his team-mates 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.
GMT 1425 The story was updated after the ICC confirmed that the Indian government had approved the visas.