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Cricket: Government must take initiative - Sohail

Government must take initiative - SohailAs concerns grow over whether or not the Champions Trophy will be held in Pakistan, there is a feeling Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf should convince nations such as Australia and England not to give the event a miss if it is staged here.

Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi are scheduled to host the tournament in September but growing fears over the turbulence have led to some players expressing unease about playing here. The boards of Australia, England and New Zealand are awaiting the assessment of a team of security experts that was in Pakistan during the just-concluded Asia Cup before they make a final decision. Sri Lanka is the official alternative venue should the tournament be moved away.

Aamir Sohail, former Test opener and captain, believes Musharraf, who is also patron of the PCB, should be more proactive. "It is the president's duty to speak to individual countries and convince them to come over and play in Pakistan," Sohail

"What is happening in the country is basically the result of Pakistan leading this war against terror," Sohail said. "We are paying for fighting it. Countries such as Australia and England are our allies in this war on terror, yet they are not supporting us here. Are we real allies or are we just being used?"

Earlier in the year, Australia pulled out of a full tour to the country due to security fears but the successful, untroubled hosting of the Asia Cup in Lahore and Karachi was supposed to have eased the way for the Champions Trophy. A spate of bombings since, however, have once again cast doubt over the tournament, the ICC saying that they too were awaiting a report from their security consultants before taking a final decision on the venue. A bomb in Islamabad on the night of the final - in Karachi - killed ten people, while Karachi experienced seven low-intensity blasts the very next day.

"If the tournament isn't held here because of these reasons," Sohail said, "it will be a really sad day for Pakistan cricket. It is an unfair price for us to pay. This tournament is a real test of our role in this war: after eight years in the front-line, is this our reward - that we miss out on hosting this tournament? The onus is on the president to convince countries that it is safe to play in Pakistan and that sport has never been targeted here. The ICC and PCB are going the whole hog in ensuring it happens here but the president can really help with his involvement."

A board official also backed the idea, further arguing that the country's foreign office should play a role. "The ICC and PCB will try their level best to make sure it happens in Pakistan, but it is upto individual governments to ensure their teams come. And the president's input here can really help."

Musharraf attended the Asia Cup final between India and Sri Lanka, where he spoke at the post-match ceremony about the need for cricket to go on despite the bombings. "But the fight against terrorism must go on and life must continue. We have to fight terrorism together," he said. "Such healthy competitions are important and necessary for Pakistan and in this region. I congratulate the Pakistan board and the Asian Cricket Council for organising this event successfully."



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