ISLAMABAD - The federal interior minister on Monday created quite a stir by suggesting the Taliban could swap their guns for cricket bats. He rather offered to host a match with the militants to revive stalled peace talks.
With talks on a sticky wicket, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that cricket could offer hope.
“I have information that the Taliban keep an interest in cricket . So if this message can go through to them, we can have a cricket match with them which can have a better result,” he said.
“The Taliban follow the Pakistan cricket team with keen interest so this can be a platform,” Nisar told reporters in Islamabad following an exhibition match played between teams of Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) XI and Commonwealth XI at Saidpur Cricket Ground.
But Taliban were quick to reject the offer . Speaking to AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location, Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said his group would refuse to play ball.
“These secular people want to distance our youth from jihad and Islamic teachings through cricket . We are strongly against cricket and dislike it,” he said.
“We are ready to open the deadlock in peace talks created by the government. The government is not sincere in peace talks, but Taliban are ready for it.”
The minister in his talk vowed that every option and all efforts would be utilised to bring peace in the country. He said some forces did not want to see peace in Pakistan and same was the case with Pakistani cricket . Some forces wanted to make Pakistani cricket grounds deserted and did not wish to see international cricket here.
The aim of this match, he said, was to convey the message that Pakistan was a peaceful country. The soft image of country would be projected by organising such recreational activities and sporting events, the minister added. Nisar admitted that the country was passing through a difficult time but added that people wanted to go and watch cricket matches at playgrounds and stadiums. The minister thanked Australian High Commission, European Union and Roots Millennium Schools for organising the event.
Chaudhry Nisar also played as member of the Pakistan Cricket Board XI and scored 28 runs by hitting four 4s. He also bowled two overs. PCB XI won the match by two runs in a close finish. Cricket stars Umer Akmal, Wahab Riaz, Sohail Tanvir, Abdul Qadir, Azhar Ali, Sarfraz Nawaz, Intikhab Alam, Ejaz Ahmed and diplomats also played in the two teams. Australian High Commissioner Peter Hewyard led Commonwealth team.
PM Nawaz Sharif has called a meeting of the federal cabinet today (Tuesday). According to sources, the National Security Policy would be placed before the cabinet for approval. They added that the prime minister would take cabinet members into confidence about negotiations with the Taliban and the government’s future strategy.
Interior Minister Ch Nisar would brief the cabinet about the overall law and order situation. Sources said important decisions regarding NWA offensive are also likely to be made.
The PM would also take the cabinet members into confidence regarding Saudi Crown prince’s visit to Pakistan and talks with him regarding regional and international issues.