ISLAMABAD - Inter Provincial Coordination (IPC) Minister Mian Riaz Hussain Pirzada has invited Indian parliamentarians to play sports festival matches against Pakistani counterparts.

Talking exclusively to The Nation on Sunday, Pirzada said that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi must stop spreading hatred against Pakistan and should use the language of peace, sports and harmony. He said that gone were the days when issues were settled through wars; today’s world had changed significantly.

“I invite the Indian sports minister to play a series of cricket matches and other sports against Pakistani parliamentarians. We will show them our parliamentarians are by no means less than our heroes in different sports like cricket and hockey,” he said.

Pirzada said, “We have the likes of Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Imran Khan, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq. They are very good cricketers and we can beat Indians at any given venue.”

When asked who would lead if Khan and Sharif are ready to play the match against the Indian parliamentarians, the minister said with a broad smile on his face, “If it is a cricket match, Khan will lead the Pakistani side, but if it is politics, obviously Sharif will lead the Pakistani parliamentarians.”

Pirzada said that Pakistan was a peace-loving country and Pakistanis had a great respect for sportsmen. Now with the matchless sacrifices of the Pakistani armed forces, he said, playgrounds in Pakistan were slowly, but gradually attracting international teams and players. He said that Pakistan successfully hosted international squash competitions recently. He said the Australian Army Cricket team visited Pakistan recently and played matches against Pakistan Army teams at different places. He said, “We are ready to host teams and will provide them top class security. We have to take permission from the prime minister, Interior Ministry and the Foreign Ministry. I am sure that now, with a fast changing situation, top teams will come and play in Pakistan.”

Najam Sethi recently told the National Assembly Standing Committee on IPC that the Irish cricket team was ready to play in Pakistan, but the prime minister advised against this series and Pakistan had to pull back. When asked what if any other team agrees to play in Pakistan and the prime minister advises against the plan, Pirzada said the prime minister was more informed on national security than him. He would definitely have some solid reasons for saying no to Sethi’s proposal. He said that now Pakistan was prepared to invite cricket as well as other teams.

When asked whether IPC and PSB were ready to facilitate rugby teams if the Pakistan Rugby Union and the Islamabad Rugby Association manage to become hosts of an international event, Pirzada said, “Yes, off course, we will bear the expenses, provide them security and excellent facilities at the Pakistan Sports Complex hostels. Hostels are already full to capacity because training camps for various international events are under way nowadays. I have asked the Islamabad Rugby Association to play matches at Jinnah Outer Stadium. I want the Pakistan Rugby Union and the Islamabad Rugby Association to play routine rugby as well as rugby on sand. The IPC and PSB are ready to host international teams and provide whatever the PRU demands because there are clear instructions from the government about promotion of sports at every level. I want rugby to be played in every corner of the country because it is one of my favourite sports. I want to take it to Bahawalpur, my hometown, as well,” the minister said.