Karachi: Cricket legend Imran Khan said Wednesday that Pakistan was paying the price for backing the US-led "war on terror" after Australia postponed a tour of the troubled country.
Khan, who captained Pakistan to World Cup glory in 1992 and then retired to become an opposition politician, blamed President Pervez Musharraf for the Australian decision to pull out of the tour.
"Musharraf blindly follows the United States in the war against terror and we are paying the price. Because of that we are now at a stage when no one is ready to play cricket here," Khan told AFP.
Khan said fans would feel deprived by Australia's pull out from the tour, in which they were due to play two Tests and three one-day internationals starting from March 29.
"People feel the Australians are unjustified in pulling out, but Australia's decision is understandable as everything that happens in Pakistan is magnified to larger proportions abroad," said Khan, who played 88 Tests for his country.
Australia put off their tour to Pakistan on Tuesday over security fears on the day when two blasts left 26 dead in Lahore -- a city where they were due to play a Test and one-day match.
"Australians don't live here and they don't know that bombings are not aimed at sportsmen but terrorists' targets are specific. No one has ever targeted sportsmen in Pakistan."
Khan has been a vocal opponent of Musharraf, who seized power in a military coup in 1999 and then backed the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001 following the Sept 11 attacks on the United States.
He heads the opposition Movement for Justice party and was detained for several days in November when Musharraf declared a state of emergency and locked up thousands of opponents.
Khan accused the Musharraf regime of fomenting violence by carrying out military operations in Pakistan's troubled tribal belt bordering Afghanistan, an alleged haven for Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants.
"No Pakistani was involved in 9/11 and there was no history of suicide bombing in Pakistan, yet we are now engulfed in terrorism and since we are fighting someone else's war, we are in trouble," Khan said.
"Our own army is waging a war against Pakistani civilians in tribal areas and in turn they are taking revenge, which has endangered daily life."
Khan said cricket in Pakistan would lose out in terms of money and interest.
"This pull out by Australia will make Pakistan cricket poorer. Had they toured it would have created a lot of interest as everyone wants to see them play here. That is gone now for at least until the tour is rescheduled," he said.
"Pakistan will also lose revenue by not hosting a high-profile series and we have come to a position where we only play minnows like Zimbabwe and Bangladesh."
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Tuesday said they were insured against any losses from the pull-out and had arranged a five-match one-day series and a Twenty20 match series with Bangladesh, the schedule of which will be announced soon.