Bilawal leads high-powered panel to decide on Pakistan’s participation in World Cup in India


ISLAMABAD: The federal government has formed a high-profile committee headed by Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari for the deliberations over Pakistan’s participation in ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023, which is being hosted by India, sources told.

As ties between Pakistan and India remain severed, with security in the neighbouring country being a major issue, the national side’s participation in the most-anticipated cricketing event remains doubtful.

The World Cup, featuring 50 overs matches, is slated to begin this October but Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has said that it requires the government’s approval to send the squad to India — the country’s arch-rival since its partition in 1947.

Last week, the cricket governing body sought clearance for Pakistan’s participation in the tournament in a letter to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

Taking the request into account, PM Shehbaz formed a high-level body to decide whether the country should send the national squad to India or not.

The sources said that the committee headed by FM Bilawal will make recommendations on all matters related to the World Cup in India and Pakistan’s tour will be decided in the light of these recommendations.

They said that the final recommendations will be sent to the prime minister for approval.

The committee, headed by FM Bilawal, comprises Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, Minister of Inter-Provincial Coordination Ehsan-ur-Rehman Mazari, chiefs of the national security institutions, and foreign secretary.

In the letter written via the Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC), the PCB had also requested the government to scrutinise the expected security on the five venues offered to Pakistan for their World Cup matches.

The ICC last week announced the schedule for World Cup 2023, with the Pakistan and India thriller scheduled for October 15 in Ahmedabad.

Five venues have been earmarked for Pakistan matches —

October 12 – vs Qualifier in Hyderabad
October 15 – vs India in Ahmedabad
October 20 – vs Australia in Bengaluru
October 23 – vs Afghanistan in Chennai
October 27 – vs South Africa in Chennai
October 31 – vs Bangladesh in Kolkata
November 5 – vs New Zealand Bengaluru
November 12 – vs England in Kolkata
If Pakistan reach the semi-final, they will play in Kolkata. The final will be held in Ahmedabad on November 15.

It may be noted that in 2016, the government sent a three-person delegation to India on a recce tour for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, following which the ICC moved Pakistan’s match against India from Dharamsala to Kolkata due to security reasons.