ISLAMABAD - The federal government on Wednesday claimed that it had evidence that the “false threat was primarily generated from India” as part of the conspiracy to get cancelled New Zealand cricket team’s recent tour to Pakistan. 

“The way things are, it is very apparent that a fake unfortunate incident and threat was created from India to cancel the New Zealand tour,” Federal Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry said while addressing a joint press conference here along with Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed.

The information minister explained how a fake Facebook post and fake email was generated to threaten the Black Caps and then a follow-up email was made through a device associated with India to put all blame on Pakistan after the cancellation of tour. 

On September 17, the New Zealand cricket team had abandoned its tour to Pakistan citing security threat minutes before it was going to play the first one-day match with Pakistan in Rawalpindi’s cricket stadium. The decision faded Pakistan’s hopes to resume international cricket in the country.

“When we talk about hybrid war or fifth generation media warfare or fake news, many people think it an unnecessary discussion. But the facts would be a reminder how we are faced with fifth generation hybrid war and media war and how fake news are generated at state level and powerful agencies are behind it,” he said. 

Interior Minister Sh Rashid says Pakistan cannot be isolated

Calling that the cancellation of tour was a bog “distraction” for Pakistanis and people are upset over this, Chaudhry said the entire situation started due to a fake post by someone claiming to be former banded Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan.

On 19 August 2021, a fake FB post was circulated from fabricated account made in the name of Ehsan asking the NZ cricket board and government not to send their team to Pakistan as militant organization ISKP (Islamic State Khorasan Province) has planned to “target” it, he said.

“After this, the event is interesting,” the information minister said. Following this post, the bureau chief of The Sunday Guardian, Abhinandan Mishra, published an article on August 21 on the basis of fake post by Ehsan claiming that “NZ cricket team may face a terrorist attack in Pakistan”  

“Interestingly, Mishra has strong links with (former Afghanistan vice president) Amrullah Saleh,” he said adding that all know about latter’s views regarding Pakistan.

The minister went on to say that on August 24, New Zealand opener Martin Guptill’s wife received a threatening email from ID with the username “Tehreek-i-Labbaik” via ProtonMail, a secure service. She was warned that Guptill would be murdered in Pakistan.

He said that when Pakistani authorities investigated this matter, it revealed that the email was not affiliated with any social media network, email account was generated on the night of August 24 and only one email had been generated from this account the next morning.

“The details of the email are not available and we have requested Interpol to assist us and tell us how it was generated.”

Despite these threats, the New Zealand cricket team did not cancel the tour and arrived in Pakistan on September 11 and its T20 cricket team arrived the next day, he reminded reporters. “As the interior minister has already said that the security provided (by Pakistan) to NZ team was much than the number of forces in their country,” he said.

The information minister said that once the Black Caps arrived, the interior ministry issued a detailed protocol programme for them including two helicopters were deputed for air surveillance and then schedule of practice sessions was issued. The New Zealand team participated in the practice sessions despite all security threats, he said.

However, on the day of the first match, New Zealand officials approached local authorities and said that their government had concerns about a “credible threat” and cancelled the tour unilaterally on the advice of their government, he said.

He said that all Pakistan’s authorities and agencies concerned including the security team of Ministry of Interior approached them and asked them to share the threat bur “they were as clueless as us”.

He said that a day later, Interpol’s bureau in Wellington shared an email with Interpol’s bureau in Islamabad. It was a second threatening email sent to the New Zealand team using the identity of Hamza Afridi following the cancellation of the tour, he added.

He said that when authorities probed the email, they discovered that it was sent from an associated device in India using a virtual private network (VPN) to show its “wrong” location in Singapore.

He said that the same device had 13 other email IDs, and 12 of which were with Indian names. Only the name of Hamza Afridi was used to show that this email was generated from Pakistan.

“His name was used deliberately to show that a terrorist threat is present in Pakistan.”

He said that the particular mobile device was launched in India in August 2019 and mobile SIM was registered in India on September 25, 2019 and its user was Omprakash Mishra based in Maharashtra. “Here comes a very strong India link that that the device used to send the threat to the New Zealand team actually belonged to India… A fake ID of Hamza Afridi was used but it was sent from Mumbai, Maharashtra.”

The minister informed that Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had registered a case and had requested Interpol for assistance and information about fake IDs of Tehreek-i-Labbaik and Hamza Afridi.

He said that the West Indies team was travelling to Pakistan in December. “A threat has already been issued to the team,” he said adding that this was also issued via a Proton Mail account.

“This is unfortunate. This is not a campaign against Pakistan but we believe that this is a campaign against international cricket. The International Cricket Council (ICC) and other bodies must take notice,” he said.

He also called on the New Zealand government to share the details of the threat they had received so that they could neutralize it. He said that Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi who is currently in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly had also lodged a strong protest with New Zealand.

Commenting on the English cricket team’s decision to cancel its tour while following into the footsteps of NZ cricket team, Chaudhry said that British High Commissioner Christian Turner had made it clear that the United Kingdom government’s advisory for Pakistan was not being changed.

“So, if the British government and its security agencies have no reservations, who is the English Cricket Board (to cancel the tour. It is a lame excuse that players are tired,” he said.

He added that he had asked Pakistan Television (PTV) to evaluate the financial losses it had suffered due to the cancellation of UK cricket team’s tour. “We are working on this and if our legal team permits, we will sue the ECB,” he said.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid talking on the occasion said that those were not wise enough who think that Pakistan would be isolated following the NZ’s cancellation of tour.  

He claimed that India used to free many people from its prisons on bail and then trained them to carry out sabotage activities against Pakistan. India is not desisting from promoting terrorism in Pakistan, he added.

He said the neighbouring India has faced disappointment as it failed to make Pakistan a scapegoat following the developments in Afghanistan. It was thinking that there would be civil war in Afghanistan and there would be so much killings and slaughter that Pakistan would be facing an influx of refugees, he added. “Not a single refugee has come here.”

He said the Torkham and Chaman border crossings were peaceful and more people were going to Afghanistan from Pakistan than those coming here.