Karachi, September 19, 2021: Newshub can reveal it was a targeted threat that forced the Blackcaps tour of Pakistan to be canceled. The Minister responsible for the GCSB and NZSIS has confirmed the threat related to the team taking to the field in Pakistan.
Instead of watching the Blackcaps playing on this pitch, we ended up watching a bomb squad sweeping it.
“It was a sufficiently serious threat that had to be communicated to team management and that lead them to make their decision,” Andrew Little told Newshub.
That decision was to abandon the tour of Pakistan. He said the threat “related to the Blackcaps’ presence in Pakistan”.
“As far as I’m aware, the threat was related to them playing in the country.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) has confirmed it “alerted NZ Cricket to information regarding a specific, credible security threat”.
The first of three One Day Internationals was scheduled to start at 9:30 pm on Friday night, but players were told to stay in their hotel rooms, and fans were not allowed on the ground after a targeted threat.
“It clearly put the Blackcaps in the frame of a security threat,” Little said. “They had to know about that and we have seen the consequence of that.”
Read More: BLACKCAPS tour of Pakistan abandoned
The Blackcaps haven’t played in Pakistan since 2003, one year after a fatal bomb attack outside the team hotel in Karachi. In the lead-up to the tour, New Zealand Cricket’s own security team spent two weeks in Pakistan assessing the country’s safety.
“They had made some assessments that meant the team could go up there. I think the situation changed since that time, and a much more serious threat became evident, and they’ve made their decision,” the minister told Newshub.
“Our agencies were aware of it and communicated that to New Zealand Cricket.”
It was always a risky decision. The Government’s Safe Travel website says “future terrorist attacks are expected” in Pakistan.
“I’m not aware of whether the threat went beyond the Blackcaps team and the tournament they are playing but Pakistan is a risky country at the moment,” Little said.
Last month, an Indian newspaper reported there was an “imminent possibility” of the Kiwi cricketers being attacked by one of the active terror groups in the region. It is a particularly unstable time for the region after the Taliban took control of neighboring Afghanistan last month.
“The situation for some time in that country, the situation has been precarious, and Pakistan’s ability to control the whole country is limited,” Robert Patman, a politics and international relations professor at the University of Otago, said.
He said a threat “emerges when you play in a large arena where there is a lot of people, [it’s] much more difficult to control”.
“That’s where security people worry about some sort of militant group taking action. Let’s be quite clear, groups like Islamic State, ISIS-K as they are called in Afghanistan – they are the people responsible for the horrific suicide bombing in Kabul airport which killed more than 170 people – they have a counterpart in Pakistan.
“That would be a big worry. With explosives strapped to them, they could present themselves as a spectator, wander in and then run on the pitch or something. You can just imagine the situation. For these groups, that would be a huge notch under their belt.”
Read More: PCB statement on NZ canceling the ODI series
Pakistan’s Interior Minister told a press conference “there is no security threat” but the New Zealand Prime Minister said she had information that when the team goes outside, there could be an attack.
The focus now turns to get the team home safely. MFAT is working with New Zealand Cricket as the team makes arrangements for its departure. One possibility is they’ll travel to Dubai and wait several weeks for their MIQ bookings back home.