Black Cap received death threat before departing on aborted Pakistan cricket tour


A Black Cap is understood to have received a death threat prior to departing on the cricket team’s tour to Pakistan.

The player, who Stuff has chosen not to name, was one of the 34-strong New Zealand group who fled Pakistan on a charter flight to Dubai on Saturday night (NZ time). They arrived there safely on Sunday.

Officials knew about the threat, which proved to be one of several made against the cricketers with the team leaving for the UAE under the cloud of an alleged bomb threat made against their hotel and flights.

Speaking with media on Sunday, New Zealand Cricket chief executive David White dismissed the email threats sent to players “a few weeks ago” saying they were “forwarded to our security provider,” and “were proved to be hoax and not credible”.

However, Stuff understands the player was so concerned they considered not travelling to Pakistan where the threat was believed to have originated from.

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The alleged bomb threat came after the tour was called off, a decision made when “everything changed on Friday,” White said – just before the Black Caps’ first scheduled ODI against Pakistan in Rawalpindi.

That was when the cricketers were advised of a threat and “unfortunately, given the advice we’d received, there was no way we could stay in the country,” White said, refusing not to give any further detail of the threat.

The tour was abandoned and arrangements hastily made for the Black Caps to depart. White said that 24 members of the group now in Dubai would return home “over the next week or so’’ once flights and MIQ rooms became available.

The Black Caps have left Pakistan after receiving a police escort to Islamabad Airport.

Anjum Naveed/AP

The Black Caps have left Pakistan after receiving a police escort to Islamabad Airport.

The New Zealand tour party, including 21 players, received a full police escort to the airport on bulletproof buses, four hours before their scheduled departure from Islamabad Airport.

White refused to detail the “specific and credible” threat that prompted the tour abandonment following a New Zealand Government security alert on Friday.

He said NZC remained comfortable with its initial decision to tour Pakistan, based on comprehensive assessments of the security situation, and the risk mitigation measures promised.

But, “everything changed on Friday,” he said. “The advice changed, the threat level changed and, as a consequence, we took the only responsible course of action possible.”

While the general tenor of the threat was immediately shared with the Pakistan Cricket Board, White reiterated that specific details could not, and will not, be disclosed – privately or publicly.

He said MFAT were aware of the Pakistan tour and NZC “went through outlining all the detail of the tour, the fact that the tour was going to get incredibly high level of security. So that was explained.”

Asked if the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade warned NZC not to tour, White said: “We were not advised not to go.”

White said in a statement on Sunday morning that NZC and the Black Caps had been “very much looking forward to the Pakistan series but were faced with no option but to abandon the tour after receiving, on Friday, advice from the New Zealand Government of a specific, credible threat’’.

This advice was supported by NZC’s security consultants – who were on the ground in Pakistan, and by other independent sources, he said. Government and international agencies had been alerted.

STUFF

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says a direct threat made towards the Black Caps was credible.

Threat ‘direct and targeted’

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Government had passed on to NZC information it received about “credible and also direct and targeted” threats to the Black Caps.

“There isn’t much more that I can say beyond that, although we really do support the decision that was ultimately made by NZC to bring the team home,” Arden said at her Sunday afternoon press conference.

She said Government agencies received the information on Friday and immediately let NZC know.

Asked if New Zealand’s Five Eyes intelligence alliance partners provided the tip-off, Ardern said: “You will understand why we are not in a position to give further information as to the nature of the intelligence, other than to say, it was a direct threat, and it was a credible threat.”

She insisted NZC “made the right decision”.

Ardern would not be drawn on her view about NZ Cricket’s decision to tour Pakistan in the first place given the instability in the region since the Taliban’s takeover of neighbouring Afghanistan.

“As I understand it, it’s a matter of course in a situation like this, that we will provide information to a departing organisation – threat assessment if you like – in order for them to make a decision on their next steps on whether they undertake a visit or a tour.”

That was “relatively routine” and had happened in the Black Caps’ case.

“Ultimately, it was their decision. Subsequently, additional information came to light, and I believe they made exactly the right decision in acting on that information when they did.”

STUFF

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she spoke to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan twice around the cancellation of the Black Caps tour.

Ardern said she had had a couple of “pretty brief” conversations with Pakistan’s prime minister, cricket great Imran Khan, over the decision to abort the Black Caps’ tour.

“He was concerned about the reports we had had and wanted to understand what was the nature of the concerns.”

She said Khan did not ask her to convince New Zealand Cricket to change its decision, but he had wanted “to come to an understanding how the decision had been made”.

A police officer stands guard outside the Pindi Cricket Stadium following the cancellation of the Black Caps’ first ODI against Pakistan.

Anjum Naveed/AP

A police officer stands guard outside the Pindi Cricket Stadium following the cancellation of the Black Caps’ first ODI against Pakistan.

Player safety priority

White said that 24 members of the group now in Dubai would return home “over the next week or so’’ once flights and MIQ rooms became available. MIQ arrangements initially booked for them at the end of the Pakistan tour would now be cancelled.

The rest of the touring party will remain in the UAE and join up with the Black Caps’ T20 World Cup squad, ahead of that tournament commencing on October 17.

New Zealand Cricket’s decision had been backed by the New Zealand Cricket Players Association, which claimed White had done “an outstanding job’’ in respecting player safety.

“Obviously, it has not been an easy time for the players and their families, and it is a relief to everyone knowing that they are now safe,’’ the NZCPA said in a statement on Sunday.

“We recognise and understand that the decision to leave their country is extremely disappointing for the people of Pakistan. However, player safety has to be our number one priority, and we completely support the decision that has been made by New Zealand Cricket (NZC).

Pakistan paramilitary troops and police officers at Pindi Stadium.

Anjum Naveed/AP

Pakistan paramilitary troops and police officers at Pindi Stadium.

“We really feel for PCB CEO Wasim Khan and his team given the work they had put in to ensure the tour could go ahead, and we only hope that one day the situation will be such that we will be able to return safely.

“We have complete confidence in the security check processes we follow with NZC prior to going on any tour and remain comfortable with the decision to go – our players were really looking forward to playing in Pakistan for the first time.

“However, the security checking doesn’t stop on arrival and the continued risk assessments had determined that the situation for our team had changed last Friday and that a decision needed to be made to leave,” the NZCPA statement said.

“We would also like to thank the team at NZC led by David White who have done an outstanding job throughout – their commitment to player involvement in decision-making and player safety is second to none.

“In addition, we thank the New Zealand Government for their support and also our security consultant Reg Dickason whose experience and expertise in managing security for sporting tours and tournaments is hugely valued.”

White said he was grateful to the Pakistan Cricket Board for helping organise the safe departure of the New Zealand team.

“We appreciate this has been a terribly difficult time for the PCB and wish to pass on our sincere thanks to chief executive Wasim Khan and his team for their professionalism and care.’’

While supporting NZ Cricket’s decision, Ardern also said she was aware that the tour was important to the Pakistani public.

The Black Caps departed with a barb from veteran Pakistan all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez who posted on Twitter: “Thanks to the security of Pakistan forces to make arrangements to Black Caps to reach at airport Safe & Sound. Wonder same route & same security but no threat today???”



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