Saturday, February 27, 2010

Clampdown keeps Pakistan players confined

While India is considering the World Cup a security test for the Commonwealth Games, an attack owing to security lapse, especially on Pakistan players, during the event would not only further sour diplomatic ties between the two neighbouring countries, it will also be a huge set back for the game which was once ruled by Pakistan and India. -Photo by Reuters


KARACHI: In a tight security clampdown, the World Cup hockey organisers in New Delhi have barred Pakistani players from venturing out of their hotel on their own amid simmering political tensions between India and Pakistan.
“We are not allowed to leave our hotel on our own. Whenever we travel, we travel with the team with an escort, not alone because of security concerns. This has been advised by the organisers,” Pakistan ace forward Rehan Butt told from New Delhi.
His team mate, Haseem Khan says he has been travelling to the venue only for practice matches owing to security measures.
“I don't think that we can go outside our hotel. At least I haven't dared to go outside my hotel alone so far,” said the mercurial forward.
The greenshirts are in the Indian capital at a time when political tensions are high between the two nuclear-armed neighbours and a diplomatic deadlock exists on the issues of the 2008 Mumbai attacks and the insurgency in Kashmir that India accuses Pakistan of aiding.
Although Rehan and Haseem felt security cover was tight, Pakistan captain Zeeshan Ashraf did not seem to be much impressed by the arrangements.
The skipper said security for the team was “satisfactory”, adding his side would be more focused on the game rather than coming under the influence of political tensions.
“Security is….just Ok. As far as the political tensions are concerned, we are not bothered about that. We are here to play hockey and that's it. It is their (governments') job to talk about these issues, while we are the ambassadors for peace. I don't think political scenario could affect our performance against India on Sunday,” said Zeeshan while talking to
Pakistan coach Shahid Ali Khan was similarly unimpressed by the security. The former Pakistan goalkeeper had reportedly said in an interview a few days ago that he did not see anything extraordinary in New Delhi and the security was nothing more than what it could be at an international event at home.
There is, however, a huge security threat in the wake of Pune bomb blast last week which killed 15 people. An unknown group, Lashkar-e-Taiba al-Almi had accepted the responsibility for the attack, linking it with Pakistan-India talks held on Feb 25.
An alleged Al Qaeda-linked militant Ilyas Kashmiri also reportedly warned last week of attacking sports events in India including World Cup hockey, Indian Premier League and the Oct 3 to 14 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.