Threat to Black Caps in Pakistan was real says Minister

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The New Zealand Cricket team arrives in Dubai 

A Pakistani security forces official at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium in Rawalpindi, Pakistan on September 17, 2021 (AFP-Anadolu Agency Photo via RNZ)

Jordan Bond (updated at INL)
Wellington, September 19, 2021

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) has said that it alerted New Zealand Cricket to information about a specific, credible security threat, which led to the cancellation of the Black Caps tour to Pakistan.

The Ministry was in contact with the organisation yesterday (September 18, 2021) as the team was making plans for departure from Pakistan. The team has since arrived in Dubai. Twenty-four members of the group will return to New Zealand over the next week, while the others will remain in Dubai for the New Zealand T20 World Cup Squad for the Tournament due to begin on October 17, 2021.

MFAT said that it offered ongoing and consistent advice that Pakistan remains a high threat security environment, with a significant threat from terrorism.

But a new, specific threat was made, and it alerted New Zealand Cricket yesterday.

Targeted threat says Minister

Andrew Little, Minister for the Government Communications Security Bureau and the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service, told Newshub that a “targeted threat” was made.

“As far as I am aware, the threat was related to them playing in the country,” he said.

The eight-game tour was cancelled in its entirety last night, with the team citing unspecified security concerns.

“The Black Caps are abandoning their tour of Pakistan following a New Zealand government security alert,” the New Zealand Cricket statement said. They did not comment further.

Waikato University Professor Alexander Gillespie said that intelligence suggesting a threat would have likely come from New Zealand’s security agencies, and possibly international partners in the Five Eyes network, rather than only from the team’s security team on the ground in Pakistan.

Disappointed fans show their tickets (AFP Photo via RNZ)

Serious concern

He said the fact the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern personally spoke to Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan implies this was serious.

“This suggests to me that something was very specific and very targeted, and they had visibility of that threat. They would not have done this lightly, so I think that the threat would have almost been imminent to have made this decision, because this has ramifications on the sport, on the contract and on the countries’ relationship,” he said.

Professor Gillespie said that there are also wider implications, which would have in part influenced Ms Ardern’s decision to personally speak with Mr Khan.

“This will cast Pakistan in a very bad light, not just for this tour, but other countries will be thinking now ‘is it safe to go?’ So, there is reputational damage to the country at the same time,” he said.

Pakistan’s claim

Pakistan continues to claim there was no threat to the team.

The country’s Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad told a news conference that Mr Khan had tried to convince Ms Ardern that the visitors were not at risk.

“Our Prime Minister informed her that the law and order situation is the best in our country, and we give a guarantee that there is no security problem here, there is no security threat,” he said at the conference.

But Dr Gillespie said that Pakistan would be under pressure to deny the threat.

“It goes to the credibility of their country, to keep visitors safe. We are connected to America, Britain, Australia and Canada, and each of these countries also has its reach into other parts of the world. This gives us huge amounts of material,” he said.

Ms Ardern and the Sports Minister Grant Robertson supported the decision of New Zealand Cricket saying that “player safety is paramount.”

Mr Robertson said the threat “was credible and had to be taken seriously.”

MFAT’s Safe Travel website says that there is a significant threat of terrorism in Pakistan, and that incidents could be large and indiscriminate.

The Ministry said that it continues to receive information that terrorist groups are planning attacks there, including those against Western targets.

It lists sporting events as a potential target.

Few countries have toured Pakistan after the Sri Lanka team bus was fired at by 12 gunmen in 2009. Six members of the team were wounded, and eight people were killed including six policemen and two civilians.

Jordan Bond is a Reporter at Radio New Zealand. The above story has been published under a Special Agreement with www.rnz.co.nz

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