India vs Pakistan is never just about sport. This was amply proved on Thursday, when Pakistan’s interior minister Rehman Malik waded into the ‘Pakistani players ignored for the IPL’ controversy.
Promising a “befitting” reply to the manner in which Pakistani players were “mistreated” by India, Malik told a Karachi TV channel: “India or any other country that doesn’t give respect to Pakistan will be treated the same way. If there is a desire to improve Indo-Pak friendship, respect should be given to Pakistani sportspersons.”
He added the manner in which the players were “insulted” showed India was not serious about the peace process.
Rehman Dasti, the Member of Parliament who heads the parliamentary committee on sports called for a “total boycott of Indian sporting events.” However, most other MPs did not endorse his views.
India reacted swiftly. External Affairs minister SM Krishna stated that the Pakistani attitide was “unfortunate”.
“Blaming the (Indian) government for the absence of Pakistani players from the next edition of the IPL is unfortunate. The government has nothing to do with the selection of players for sporting events.”
Saying that Pakistan should introspect on the reasons for a strain in Indo-Pak relations, Krishna added, “Pakistan will have to draw a line between where the Government of India is directly connected and where it is not.”
The Ministry of External Affairs also stated that 17 Pakistani cricketers were issued requisite Indian visas at very short notice over December 2009 and January 2010 to facilitate their participation in IPL 2010.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Cricket Board Chief Operating Officer Wasim Bari told the Hindustan Times that the PCB would discuss a “further course of action” on Friday: “People follow cricket. That our players were discriminated is
obvious. What happened in the IPL auction is not only demoralizing, but against the interest of cricket fans in India and Pakistan.”
Interestingly, while Pakistan cancelled a tour of India by its kabaddi team for a five-match series late on Thursday in protest over their “cricketers being insulted in the IPL auction”, Sports Minister Ijaz Jhakrani said their hockey team would participate in next month’s World Cup in New Delhi.
“The only way to answer India is to go and compete in the hockey World Cup and win it,” he said. “Sports should not be mixed with politics.”
He also appealed to Pakistan’s cable television stations to not show any IPL matches.