Politics should not have come into this: Pakistan captain on Chess Olympiad withdrawal
The withdrawal is set to cause a stir given that the Pakistan contingent – a group of 13 including ten players and three officials – had reached Mahabalipuram on Thursday morning
A day before the 44th edition of the Chess Olympiad kicks off in Mahabalipuram, there was unexpected drama with neighbours Pakistan pulling out of the event at the last minute. The reason that Pakistan offered for its pullout was that the Olympiad torch had passed through Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir. The torch relay was launched in New Delhi in June and covered 75 cities in 40 days before reaching Mahabalipuram.
“Regrettably, India has chosen to politicise this prestigious international sporting event by passing the torch relay of this event through the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK),” Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a release on Thursday.
The withdrawal is set to cause a stir given that the Pakistan contingent – a group of 13 including ten players and three officials – had reached Mahabalipuram on Thursday morning. They had travelled from Lahore to Amritsar by road and then took a connecting flight via Pune to reach the venue.
Amer Karim, captain of Pakistan’s team in the open category, confirmed that they will be heading back home. “Politics should not have come into this. If our government has decided, then we need to abide by it. The reason for pulling out is justifiable. When that is a disputed territory, there was no reason for the torch relay to cover Kashmir,” he told HT.
Tournament director and All India Chess Federation Bharat Singh Chauhan said Pakistan’s decision was “sad and unfortunate”.
“We have been working very hard for the event. The Indian government and the organising team went the extra mile to get the Pakistan players here because they conducted their selections late. We cooperated and helped them. Their visas arrived on Tuesday and they are already here. It is really unfortunate that they are going back,” he said.
The official also pointed out that the Olympiad torch had passed through Srinagar as early as June 21.
“I don’t know why they are waking up now and making it an issue. I don’t know the motive behind it,” Chauhan said.
Pakistan were seeded 106th in the open section and 120th in the women’s section. Aside from the 52-year-old Karim, the open team included Junaid Sohail, Waqar Muhammad, Ehtesham Ul Haq and Muhammad Shahzeb. Mehak Gul, Wasif Zenobia, Noor Fatima Rashid, Sehrish Rehman and Aleena Zahid were part of the women’s team.
“The Olympiad is a top event. And it would have been a great learning chance for our players to play in it. But I can’t say anything more,” Karim said.