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New Zealand abandons Pakistan cricket tour over ‘security alert’

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The New Zealand cricket team has called off its tour of Pakistan, minutes before the first match was due to begin in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi, citing security concerns, both country’s cricket boards say.

New Zealand’s team was due to take on Pakistan in its first match on Pakistani soil for 18 years in Rawalpindi on Friday.

Minutes before the scheduled start of play, however, New Zealand Cricket (NZC) – the sport’s national board in that country – issued a statement saying it was “abandoning” the tour due to government security alert.

“Following an escalation in the New Zealand Government threat levels for Pakistan, and advice from NZC security advisors on the ground, it has been decided the Black Caps will not continue with the tour,” said the statement.

NZC declined to share details of the security threat and said arrangements were being made for the team’s departure.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told her Pakistan counterpart Imran Khan that the cricket team could have been attacked, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed told reporters.

Pakistan security agencies did not have any such information, he added.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said NZC had “unilaterally decided to postpone the series” despite “foolproof security arrangements” made for the matches.

“The Pakistan Prime Minister spoke personally to the Prime Minister of New Zealand and informed her that we have one of the best intelligence systems in the world and that no security threat of any kind exists for the visiting team,” the PCB said in a statement.

“PCB is willing to continue the scheduled matches. However, cricket lovers in Pakistan and around the world will be disappointed by this last-minute withdrawal.”

Newly-appointed PCB chairman Ramiz Raja, a former Pakistan captain, said they would approach the International Cricket Council (ICC) over what transpired on a “crazy day”.

“Walking out of the tour by taking a unilateral approach on a security threat is very frustrating. Especially when it’s not shared!! Which world is NZ living in?? NZ will hear us at ICC,” Raja tweeted.

(Inputs from Reuters)

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