M A I N   N E W S

PM clears Pak tour
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 14
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today gave a Valentine’s Day gift to cricket lovers of the subcontinent when his government announced that the Indian cricket tour of Pakistan would take place from the first week of next month as scheduled.

The six-week tour, perceived as politically volatile as it coincides with the general election in India, will include three Tests and five one-day internationals.

This was decided at a meeting held at the Prime Minister’s residence this morning. The meeting, which lasted half an hour, was attended by Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani, Finance Minister Jaswant Singh and External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha.

Mr Sinha made a brief announcement after he emerged from the meeting and said: “After taking into consideration all aspects, it was decided that the two countries should go ahead with their cricket matches as proposed”. Asked about the dates of the matches, he said: “The two cricket boards of India and Pakistan will decide the dates of the matches.”

Sources said an impromptu report from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) team, currently touring Pakistan, came up for discussion. The report is understood to have dealt with the security aspects.

Sources said it was unanimously decided at the meeting to go ahead with the tour and make a categoric announcement to this effect so that all speculation in this regard is put to rest once and for all.

Speculative reports had started in the media after a meeting was held at the Prime Minister’s house on February 2 wherein the government reportedly asked the BCCI to defer the Pakistan tour.

The BCCI asked for written communication to this effect to which the government did not agree. Union Minister Arun Jaitley and BJP General Secretary Pramod Mahajan met BCCI President Jagmohan Dalmia but Mr Dalmia insisted on a written communication from the government advising postponement of the tour.

The February 2 meeting at the Prime Minister’s house was also attended by the same set of government top guns who attended today’s meeting.

Union Minister of State for Home Swami Chinmayanand went on record today saying that the Government decided to go ahead with the cricket tour after it received report from a BCCI team that it was satisfied with the security arrangements in that country.

Reaction from Pakistan was quick and positive. Pakistan’s Deputy High Commissioner here Munnawar Sayeed Bhatti told The Tribune: “We welcome this decision, especially as the decision regarding sporting exchanges, including cricket, was taken at the level of two Prime Ministers”.

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