Karachi: Pakistan's cricket chief threatened on Friday to lead an Asian boycott of Australia if the Australian side refuses to go ahead with an October tour of Pakistan.
Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Tauqir Zia said President Pervez Musharraf had personally intervened in the row. "It is now no longer a matter between the two boards," Lieutenant General Zia said, firing a warning shot at the Australian Cricket Board (ACB). "The heads of the states are involved and if the ACB can't trust General Musharraf's words, then I am afraid we will have to review our relationship," Zia said. "General Musharraf talked to Australian Prime Minister John Howard for 25 minutes (last week) and has urged him to convince the ACB to send the team." The fate of the October 1 to 24 Test tour has been in the balance after Australia's players expressed fears for their safety in violence-torn Pakistan. The New Zealand team cut short a tour of Pakistan without playing the second Test in Karachi after an explosion outside its hotel on May 8. Pakistan has been forced to shift the venue for next month's tri-series One-day tournament involving Australia from Karachi to Nairobi after New Zealand pulled out. Kenya is now the third team. Leading Australian players Shane Warne, Mark Waugh and Glenn McGrath have already ruled out touring Pakistan saying they do not want to risk their lives, but Test captain Steve Waugh has said he will tour if the ACB gives the go-ahead. Zia warned of reprisals if the tour fails to happen. "If Australia doesn't tour then we might decide against making a return tour to Australia in 2004," he said. "India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) and if Australia doesn't tour Pakistan, then I don't think any Asian country will be visiting them." The four Asian Test nations signed the MoU in Sharjah in April vowing to boycott any country that refuses to tour any one of them. But Zia added, "We are optimistic about the tour going ahead and have good relations with the ACB." Australia cancelled a tour of Zimbabwe in April over security fears. Australia granted a walkover to Sri Lanka rather than play a 1996 World Cup match in Colombo after bomb attacks in the city. Cricket in Pakistan has suffered badly since the September 11 terror attacks in the United States and the resulting US military action in Afghanistan, as well as from tensions with India. Pakistan was forced to play a home series against the West Indies at a neutral venue in Sharjah in February-March this year.
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