Cricket World Cup: No Pak scribes or fans; the government asked for involvement in accelerating the issuance of visas

With Pakistan scheduled to play their second World Cup match against Sri Lanka on Tuesday without any journalists or fans from their country, the government in Islamabad has been asked to involve itself in the matter to expedite the visa process.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has urged the country’s foreign minister to step in and resolve the ongoing impasse. According to PCB spokesman Umar Farooq, chairman of the board’s management committee Zaka Ashraf met Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Syrus Sajjad, expressing concerns about visa delays faced by journalists and fans traveling to India.

The meeting comes three days after the PCB first wrote to the International Cricket Council (ICC) expressing concerns over the delays faced by Pakistani journalists and fans. “The Chairman also requested the Minister of External Affairs to raise the issue with the Ministry of Home Affairs of India through the Office of the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi. “The PCB is extremely disappointed that Pakistani journalists and fans continue to face uncertainty regarding obtaining an Indian visa to cover Pakistan’s matches in the ICC World Cup 2023,” Farooq said in a statement to The Indian Express.

Pakistan is playing its first tournament in India since the 2016 T20 World Cup. The Indian Express reported then, citing Home Ministry officials, that it would issue 250 visas to Pakistani fans for each match. Since Pakistan played its matches only in Kolkata and Mohali, a multi-city visa was issued for its fans, which could provide details of match tickets and accommodation.

Last week, when it became clear that no Pakistani journalist would be allowed to travel to Hyderabad for the opening match against the Netherlands, the PCB wrote to the ICC regarding visa delays, citing the Members Playing Agreement (MPA) signed by cricket boards for the World Cup, which require visas for traveling journalists and fans.

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“We have reminded the ICC of their responsibilities and members’ agreement regarding the issuance of visas to fans and journalists and continue to raise concerns with all relevant authorities,” a PCB spokesperson told The Indian Express.

This article reported that Mohammad Bashir, better known in cricket circles as Chicago Chacha, was the only Pakistani supporter at the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium in Hyderabad during the team’s warm-up against Australia. Bashir holds an American passport.

Official response

Asked about delays in issuing visas to Pakistani journalists and MPAs, an ICC spokesperson said: “It is the responsibility of our host (India) and with our full support they are working hard on it. We are making every effort to sort this out.”

The Indian Express has contacted the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Home Affairs but is yet to receive a response.

A senior BCCI official told this newspaper that a channel of communication has been opened with the government regarding the “visa issue” for Pakistani journalists and fans.

“The BCCI is working with the Indian government on visas for fans and journalists. We hope a solution will be found soon,” a BCCI official said.

It is known that the ICC has granted accreditation to about 60 journalists from Pakistan. “Since e-visas are not issued to Pakistani journalists, most of us applied for visas (after submitting passports) in the first week of September,” a senior Pakistani journalist told The Indian Express. “But so far we have not received any confirmation from the Indian High Commission. We hope to receive it next week.”

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As Pakistani journalists were unable to travel, they had to cancel their hotel reservations in Hyderabad and their flight tickets.

Even before the World Cup started, the Pakistani team was struggling with visa problems, which forced them to cancel a two-day training camp in Dubai. They received their visas to India 48 hours before leaving for the tournament.

Bangladeshi journalists also initially faced delays in obtaining visas. “There has never been a delay like this,” said a senior Bangladeshi journalist who has traveled to India many times in the past. “We had to write to the Indian High Commission 6-7 times, which has never happened before. Finally, the Bangladesh Cricket Board, with the help of our foreign ministry, submitted the application on October 1 and on the evening of October 3, few of us received visas,” the journalist said.

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