‘If Indian Sikh pilgrims can visit Pakistan, why not tennis players’

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‘If Indian Sikh pilgrims can visit Pakistan, why not tennis players’

Islamabad: The Pakistan Tennis Federation in its appeal against International Tennis Federation’s decision of shifting the Pakistan-India Davis Cup tie from Islamabad to a neutral venue, will ask the ITF if thousands of Indian Sikh pilgrims can visit Pakistan, then what went wrong for a 10-member tennis team, PTF president Salim Saifullah said on Wednesday.

“Every year, many Sikhs come here [to Pakistan]. A large number of Indian Sikhs are all set to visit the country for celebrating the 550th birthday anniversary of the founder of Sikhism, Baba Guru Nanak in the next few days. Considering this, why a 10-member Davis Cup team comprising players and officials is reluctant to visit Pakistan,” Salim said while talking to Dawn.

According to Salim, the PTF appeal, to be filed on Thursday, besides other aspects will contain the visit of Indian Sikhs to Pakistan.

The Asia/Oceania Group I Davis Cup tie between the arch-rivals was slated to be held on Nov 29-30 in Islamabad. However, late on Monday the ITF shifted the tie from Islamabad and gave Pakistan five days to select a neutral venue, citing security concerns.

The said tie originally was to be held on Sept 14-15 but was rescheduled for Nov 29-30 by the ITF after a security review amid diplomatic tension between Pakistan and India.

Terming the ITF decision to shift the venue of the much-awaited Davis Cup tie highly disappointing, Salim said after filing the appeal with the ITF the PTF would decide about the neutral venue.

Since Aug 5 this year, when India after revoking the special status of Jammu and Kashmir imposed curfew in Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir, bilateral relations between the nuclear-armed countries have been gripped by high tension as Pakistan termed India’s action of imposing curfew in Kashmir as an inhumane move.

After the said development, the All India Tennis Association (AITA) in a letter to the ITF had requested the game’s global body to either shift the venue or postpone the tie until political tensions between the two countries reduce.

On AITA request, the ITF postponed the tie till Nov 29-30. However AITA, which has stronger links in the ITF than maintained by Pakistan kept using its connections to convince the international body to shift the tie to a neutral venue.

India, which used delaying tactics in sending the players’ names to the PTF and only recently sent the names of a second-tier team, kept putting pressure on the ITF to shift the venue.

The PTF president said before shifting the tie to a neutral venue the ITF was supposed to check four reasons i.e war, climate disaster, terrorism and political unrest. “But currently none of these reasons can be applied on Pakistan as we are a peaceful country and have been regularly holding international sports events,” he said.

“Though we were not given any specific reasons [for the venue shift], tense relations between the countries after the Aug 5 inhumane act of India could be a major reason. [Moreover] the ongoing Azadi March of JUI-F maybe provided them an [added] excuse to shift the venue,” Salim said and added that in democracies across the globe political parties stage rallies protests but sports events are held as per routine.

The JUI-F march started last week, and the designated place for it is miles away from the sports complex where the Indo-Pak Davis Cup tie was to be held.

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