ISLAMABAD The Pakistan government cleared the national cricket team's participation in the World Twenty20 on Friday after hosts India addressed concerns about the safety and security of their players.
The much-anticipated March 19 clash between the neighbours had earlier been shifted to Kolkata following Pakistan's security concerns over the original venue Dharamsala.
Pakistan had said its men's and women's teams would travel to India only after New Delhi gave a public guarantee on the safety of its players.
Outside of international tournaments, cricket matches between the two countries have been suspended since gunmen killed 166 people in Mumbai in a three-day rampage in 2008, which India blames on a Pakistani militant group.
"I would like to give you and cricket lovers the good news that Chaudhry Nisar (Ali Khan), the Interior Minister, has given permission to send the Pakistan cricket team to play the Twenty20 on the basis of solid assurances..." Pakistan Cricket Board's (PCB) executive committee chairman Najam Sethi told reporters.
Sethi said Pakistan had received assurances from the state of West Bengal, where Kolkata is in, and the Indian Home Ministry.
Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh said on Friday Pakistan should not have any safety concerns in India, while junior minister Kiren Rijiju promised "foolproof security".
"The team is completely ready and hopefully they will fly to Dubai tonight and then from there will leave straight for India," Sethi added, signalling the end of an organisational headache for both the Indian board and the governing International Cricket Council.
PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan told reporters in Lahore that the cricketers were given the option to pull out if they felt any security threat but all 15 squad members wanted to play.
"We want cricketing ties to remain active...Our hope is that our cricketing relations (with India) remain intact," Khan said.
The uncertainty around Pakistan's participation had threatened to further sour relations between the neighbours.
"Unfortunately, Pakistan is looking for an excuse not to come," India Board (BCCI) secretary Anurag Thakur had told CNN-IBN channel earlier on Friday.
"We are providing security to everyone and Pakistan will be given adequate security. They should not be worried about security," said Thakur, also a member of parliament representing India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
Former champions Pakistan, who lost to India in the final of the inaugural World Twenty20 in 2007, begin their campaign on March 16 against a qualifying team.
(Writing by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Ed Osmond)
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Published Date: Mar 11, 2016 20:06 PM | Updated Date: Mar 11, 2016 20:06 PM