InternationalVOLUME 17 ISSUE # 4

New dimensions of hybrid warfare

The fact that the threat alert sent to the New Zealand cricket team had been generated from India indicates that Pakistan’s archrival has opened a new front against it not only to harm its sports but also the economy.

The England cricket team has also pulled out of its tour after the scare but Pakistan hopes to host other nations soon. Pakistan has faced long isolation after a terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore in 2009, which was also sponsored by India. By scaring the New Zealand team away, India has not only tried to harm Pakistan, but also cricket. Pakistan has presented the proof of the Indian threat to the international community and it should take action against people involved in the crime and stop attempts to sabotage sports in future.

Pakistan has come up with substantial evidence that the frightening alert sent to the New Zealand team had been generated from a device in India. Pakistan has also unveiled facts and figures in detail to expose an Indian conspiracy to sabotage the West Indies tour to Pakistan, as a similar threat from a concocted email ID was sent to the West Indies cricket board, as its team is scheduled to arrive in December.

Pakistan’s investigations prove that India had started a coordinated campaign well before the arrival of the New Zealand team in Pakistan. On August 19, a Facebook post was circulated from a fake account created in the name of former Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan. Through the post, the New Zealand cricket board and government were asked not to send the team to Pakistan, claiming that militant Islamic State (IS) group, KP, had planned to target the team. Two days later, Abhinandan Mishra, Bureau Chief of Sunday Guardian, an Indian newspaper, published an article titled, “New Zealand cricket team may face terrorist attack in Pakistan” based on the fake post. The Sunday Guardian, according to its website, was founded by former Indian minister for external affairs MJ Akbar, who served in the Modi government till 2018. Mishra was also found in contact with Amrullah Saleh, former Afghan vice president, before the publication of the article.

On August 24, the wife of New Zealand opener Martin Guptill received an email threatening her husband from ID: [email protected] to kill him during the tour. Pakistan found that the email was sent just hours after the account had been created. When investigated, more facts came to light. Firstly, the email was not affiliated with any social media network and only one email had been generated from the account and it was sent via ProtonMail, a secure service.

Interpol Wellington informed Interpol Islamabad about the receipt of a threat email to NZ Police from [email protected]. The email had been sent just 15 minutes after the ID had been created. When Pakistani authorities probed the email, they discovered it had been sent from a device associated with India. It was sent using a virtual private network (VPN) to show the location as Singapore while the same device had 13 other IDs, nearly all of which were Indian names. All IDs had been made using the names of Indian actors and celebrities. Only the name Hamza Afridi was different to create an impression that the email had been generated from Pakistan. Social media co-relation revealed that the possible user of the email ID was an Indian Omparkash Mishra from Mumbai, Maharashtra. A similar threat was sent to the West Indies cricket board from another concocted email ID ehshanullahehshan

Three days after the Kiwis called off their tour, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) also abandoned its men’s team’s tour to Pakistan. The ECB didn’t detail any specific security issues in a statement released after a board meeting, instead it highlighted the “mental and physical wellbeing of players and support staff.”

Some analysts believe the threat scare was part of politics after Pakistan refused to toe the line of international forces on Afghanistan. It is said the New Zealand tour of Pakistan was abandoned after the New Zealand government had received an alert from the “Five Eyes” intelligence group about a “direct and imminent” threat to its team. The Five Eyes is an intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Some ministers also attempted to link the cancellation of the tour to Pakistan’s “independent policies.” Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said Pakistan was paying the price for its stance of “absolutely not.” “If nations want to hold their head high then there is a price for that and nations pay that. I think Pakistan is ready to deal with any challenge. If you say “absolutely not” then it has a price and you have to pay it,” the minister said, in an apparent reference to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s comments in June when he had categorically said that Pakistan would “absolutely not” allow any bases and use of its territory to the US for any sort of action inside Afghanistan.

However, it is clear that the conspiracy to damage cricket in Pakistan was hatched in India. Pakistan has obtained credible evidence of the Indian hand in the cancellation of the tour by the New Zealand team. In recent years, India has stepped up its campaign to malign Pakistan. EU DisinfoLab’s revelations are a clear proof. It is commendable that relevant agencies of Pakistan took the matter seriously and probed it thoroughly to unearth the facts behind the threats. The International Cricket Council (ICC) should also probe the threat to reach the bottom of the issue. It is not only a conspiracy against Pakistan, its economy and sports, but also an attempt to sabotage peace and sports all over the world.