LAHORE - Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) has withdraws its players from Hockey India League (HIL) in the wake of ‘increasing tension’ between the two neighbouring countries to ensure their safety.

None of the Pakistani player was featured in the opening match of the Hockey India League (HIL) in New Delhi on Monday and officials said they would not take part in the entire four-week event.

In an exclusive talk with this scribe on Tuesday, PHF president Qasim Zia revealed that the decision was mutually agreed upon by the PHF and the Hockey India, in the wake of prevailing situation, ensured Pakistani players safety.

All players would receive their contract payments for 2013 in full despite their absence from the HIL games due to prevailing tension and crowd protests, confirmed Qasim Zia.

To a query about launching the HIL like hockey series in Pakistan, Qasim said: “We are doing home work to launch similar kind of league in near future and as soon as it is finalized, we will announce its schedule.”

To another query regarding the proposed Pakistan-India hockey series, he expressed the hope that the series would go on as it would help a lot for players of both the countries in improving their hockey skills. The series would continue in future also, he added.

Meanwhile, PHF secretary M Asif Bajwa has said that the PHF has withdrawn its eight national players from Hockey India league (HIL) and they are returning home by the first available flight after Hindu extremists Party Shiv Sena staged a protest during the inaugural ceremony of the event at New Delhi.

“Our players are returning home as soon as possible as we have made arrangements for their come back in the wake of two demonstrations held during past two days at Mumbai and New Delhi,” said PHF secretary M Asif Bajwa at a news conference here on Tuesday.

He said the players Kashif Shah, Shafqat Rasool, Rizwan Senior, Rizwan Jr, Rashid Mahmood, M Tauseeq, Farid Ahmed, Imran Butt and Irfan Senior were the part of the HIL and Hockey India and Indian authorities assured safety and security of the players but two protests by Shiv Sena left the PHF with no option but to withdraw its players from the event in the larger interest of their safety.

“It was unfortunate that on the opening ceremony of the league a group of Shiv Sena activists entered the stadium and chanted slogans against Pakistani players who were drawn in various teams of the league,” he said and added: “They gave the threat of dire consequences to all the Pakistani players which left the players in shock and pressure and posed a question mark on their safety.”

Bajwa said he held a meeting with the PHF president Qasim Zia on the issue and then the matter was also discussed with the Secretary Hockey India Narinder Batra and then it was decided to call back the Pakistani players.

“HI Secretary was also concerned with the situation and he agreed to the PHF decision that Pakistan players be withdrawn from the event,” he said.

To a query, Bajwa said prior to the inauguration of the league Pakistani players faced a similar situation at Mumbai hockey round during a practice match when Shiv Sinha activists staged a demonstration against their participation in the league. “These incidents showed that our players are not safe and secure in India and we cannot risk their participation in the league,” he stated. Bajwa said these incidents have not only posed a big question mark on the safety of the Pakistani players but also on all the foreign players who are participating in the league. “HI has assured that the contracts of these players will remain intact and they will be paid their full contract fee of participation for this addition of the league,” he added.

The PHF secretary said the incident would have no impact on the Pak-India bilateral hockey series being played in March this year. “But we will make sure that such incidents do not happen in future and we will get assurance from HI and concerned quarters before playing Pak-India series and the participation of Pak players in next chapter of the league,” he added.

“Our main concern is that our hockey events taking place in future in India go without any problem,” he concluded.