Posts Tagged ‘ Australia ’

Pakistan to Hand Back Bali Bombing Suspect to Indonesia

Xinua News Agency

Pakistani authorities will hand back the alleged mastermind of Bali bombing Umar Patek to Indonesia later on Wednesday, reported local Urdu TV channel Geo.

Patek, 41, is suspected as the field coordinator and planner of the suicide bombings in two nightclubs in Bali in 2002 that killed 202 people, most of whom are Australian holiday makers.

He was arrested in January 2011 at the city of Abbottabad where the U.S. army killed Osama bin Laden on May 2. There is no official confirmation about the extradition of Omar Patek yet.

Indonesian authorities had reportedly sought extradition of the suspect to uncover Patek’s network in the country. Pakistan had reportedly invited Indonesian investigators to identify and question the suspect days after his arrest was confirmed.

Patek, alias Abu Syeikh or Umar Arab, escaped from Indonesia in 2003. The U.S. government had put one million U.S. dollars bounty on his head. He has also been included in the United Nations’ consolidated list.

He was captured by the Pakistani security authorities after a decade of escape. Since his arrest the Indonesian police had reportedly been negotiating with the government of Pakistan for bringing back one of the most wanted militants in Southeast Asia.

Indonesian officials said that they had been involved in discussions with Pakistani authorities for extradition of Patek over the past few months. Patek is a suspected member of al-Qaida-linked Southeast Asian network Jemaah Islamiyah (JI).

JI has been accused of carrying out a series of major terrorist strikes in Indonesia that killed over 250 people from 2000 to 2009.

Pakistan Destroys the West Indies

By Will Davies for The Wall Street Journal

So much for close contests in the World Cup quarterfinals. In the first knock-out match Wednesday, Pakistan thrashed the West Indies by 10 wickets thanks to an inspirational bowling performance spearheaded by Mohammad Hafeez (2 for 16) and captain Shahid Afridi (4 for 30).

The West Indies batsmen were simply unable to cope with Pakistani spin, slumping to 111 all out – the team’s third-worst batting performance in World Cup history.

In one dramatic spell, the West Indies went from an already troubling 69 for 4 to an utterly disastrous 71 for 8 as Afridi & Co. showed no mercy (much like the dreaded advertisements on television after every wicket).

Afridi’s bowling at this tournament has been phenomenal. He is easily the top bowler with a handsome tally of 21 wickets, and his trademark celebration – arms outstretched with his two index fingers pointing to the heavens – could very well be the lasting image of the 2011 World Cup.

The West Indies team looked out of the game as soon as danger man Chris Gayle was caught by Afridi for eight. Shivnarine Chanderpaul, recalled to the team for the quarterfinal, was the only player to offer any real resistance, but he still couldn’t score fast enough and was left stranded on 44 not out at the end of the innings.

It took Pakistan just under 21 overs to reach the West Indies’ meek total, without the loss of a single wicket. Fresh from his great bowling performance, Hafeez clubbed 61 runs, while much improved wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal notched up 47. The two simply poured buckets of salt in weeping West Indian wounds.

It was humiliating for the West Indies. Not only did it mark the end of the team’s World Cup campaign, the abject performance could also have tragically hammered yet another nail into the coffin of Caribbean cricket. Despite its gloriously rich history, the sport there has been in rapid decline for more than a decade and the team’s latest efforts won’t have helped a bit.

But credit must go to Pakistan. If the team continues to play like this, Pakistan will win the World Cup. These players have to contend with so much more than other sportsmen – from the security situation back home to the involvement of former teammates in betting scandals. So while Wednesday’s match was depressing for the West Indies, for Pakistan, it was truly inspirational. And what better a day for it than March 23 – Pakistan’s Republic Day – which commemorates the signing of the Lahore Resolution back in 1940.

One more thing: If Australia loses tomorrow, we can look forward to the mother of all World Cup semifinals – India vs. Pakistan in Mohali on March 30.

Whisper it, but it’s surely destined to be.

Pakistan Snaps Australia’s 34-Match Unbeaten Run

By Shihar Aneez for The Los Angeles Times

Australia’s 34-match unbeaten run in the Cricket World Cup dating back to 1999 was finally broken by Pakistan on Saturday when Ricky Ponting’s team were beaten by four wickets.

Australia, who have won the last three World Cups during the run and were unbeaten in five matches in Group A in this tournament, were skittled out for 176.

Pace bowler Brett Lee raised hopes of an Australian fightback when he got rid of opener Mohammad Hafeez in the third over but his haul of four for 28 could not prevent Pakistan from cruising to victory with 54 balls to spare.

“We certainly had a tough game today. We didn’t do ourselves any favours. I thought our batting effort was particularly ordinary,” said Ponting, who suffered his first World Cup defeat as captain.

“We stuck at it really well with the ball. I thought the guys bowled really well and gave ourselves a bit of a sniff when we got them six down but not enough runs on the board.”

Saturday’s result threw the tournament wide open as there is no undefeated team left in the competition heading into next week’s knockout stages.

Australia had already qualified for the quarter-finals but will now finish third in the group rather than top, a place now occupied by Pakistan.

“It’s a different sort of enjoyment playing against Australia. They may be World Champions but there was no pressure on us so we pulled it off today,” Umar Akmal said after finishing unbeaten on 44.

Ponting’s men struggled for momentum through out their innings after opting to bat first.

Pakistan’s pace and spin attack, backed up by sharp fielding, never allowed the Australian batting to settle down.

A 63-run second wicket stand between Brad Haddin (42) and Ponting (19), who failed once again with the bat, was the only notable partnership in the Australian innings.

Michael Clarke (34) and Steve Smith (25) were the only other batsmen to make any worthwhile contributions on a difficult surface that offered spin and some uneven bounce which the Australian batsmen failed to cope with.

Paceman Umar Gul (3-30) bowled superbly with both the new and the old ball for the 1992 champions, who were the last team to defeat Australia in a World Cup match in 1999.

Gul made the first breakthrough by bowling Shane Watson for nine and returned to clean up the tail by taking the wickets of Jason Krezja and Lee.

Can Pakistan Tame Australia?

By Will Davies for The Wall Street Journal

Saturday’s Group A match between Pakistan and Australia is a tough one to predict, as is generally the case when Pakistan plays. One team – Australia – epitomizes consistency and solidity, while the other – Pakistan – is about as well-adjusted and reliable as a moody teenager.

On its day, Pakistan is one of the best sides at this World Cup, but on other occasions the team looks disorganized and uninterested. That’s one of the reasons why Pakistan is such a fascinating team to watch – you never quite know what you’re going to get.

This unpredictability can work in its favor as opponents struggle to form and stick to a game plan. Of all the sides at the World Cup, Australia is the most capable of dealing with Pakistan’s maverick approach, but it will have to tread carefully and blow off the rust that has tinged its performances thus far.

If the likes of Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Akhtar – two players who are such fun to watch – perform well, then Pakistan is in with a chance of upsetting Australia in Colombo and ending its incredible 34-match unbeaten run in World Cup cricket.

Australia has been prowling quietly but menacingly on the verges of this tournament, snapping up victims, while other teams – particularly in Group B – struggle to gain momentum and avoid upsets. But the Australians aren’t the threat they once were, and their World Cup record looks more vulnerable than in previous tournaments when the team boasted superstars like the Waugh brothers, Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Adam Gilchrist.

Australia’s captain Ricky Ponting is out of sorts with the bat and angry in the field. It looked like he was ready to thump Steven Smith when his teammate bumped into him as he took a catch in Wednesday’s match against Canada.

Smith is looking increasingly at ease in the Australian squad, but he’d do well to tread a little carefully, particularly when near Ponting’s toes. The Sydney-born youngster is a player of great promise and is now a regular in the Australian team, but he is yet to really shine. He needs a big performance, otherwise he risks slipping into nearly-man territory.

Pakistan has had its ups and downs this World Cup, from the heights of beating Sri Lanka to the lows of collapsing against New Zealand and a Ross Taylor batting onslaught. Australia beat New Zealand convincingly, while the match against Sri Lanka was cut short by a huge thunderstorm, an unfortunate outcome as the game was shaping up nicely and Australia, for once, looked like it had a tough opponent to deal with.

The weather forecast for tomorrow isn’t promising, but hopefully the rain will stay away from Colombo as matches between teams like Australia and Pakistan are the big occasions that make the World Cup so special.

Pakistan Consider Pitching up in China

As Reported by Reuters

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is considering using China as a neutral venue for its international cricket events, Chinese state media said today. The official Xinhua news agency cited sources as saying that the board’s director Javed Miandad had submitted a report to the PCB suggesting its management “take special steps to finalise China as a neutral venue.”

“We should take immediate and solid steps to decide this issue soon before the time passes away,” Miandad was quoted as saying.

Pakistan became a no-go area for cricket’s leading nations after an armed attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore in March last year killed eight people, and injured seven Sri Lankan players and their assistant coach.

Pakistan was due to host matches in next year’s World Cup. But the attack on the Sri Lanka bus saw the tournament restricted to the three remaining Asian Test nations of India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Even before the Lahore incident, countries such as Australia had refused to tour Pakistan, where thousands have died in a decade of conflict.

The security situation led Pakistan to play its “home” series against Australia in England this year. In the last two years, the nation’s “home” games have also been staged in the United Arab Emirates and New Zealand.

According to Xinhua, Pakistan will support China in its bid to host the 2012 Asia Cup in the southern city of Guangzhou, where the Asian Games recently concluded successfully with their first-ever cricket tournament.

Pakistani authorities say China’s hosting of its first major international cricket event would pave the way for making it a neutral venue.

What if Zulqarnain Haider Was Right About Corruption in Pakistan?

By Paul Hayward for The Guardian

The curse of the whistleblower is to be denounced as a fraud, a fantasist or a weirdo. In America, where they have an organisation for everything, the National Whistleblowers Center in Washington helps people wanting to expose iniquity, much like our own Public Concern at Work. Either may hear soon from a 24-year-old Pakistani wicketkeeper.

Let’s imagine this as a short movie, a study in motivation. Zulqarnain Haider approaches passport control at Heathrow one day and asks for sanctuary. Behind him he has left a wife and two daughters in Pakistan and the national team in Dubai, who learn of his disappearance when they find his hotel room empty.

The immediate cause of Haider’s flight is a conversation he says he had near the team hotel. An unknown man approaches him to say: “If you work with us, we will give you a lot of money. If not, we will not select you again in cricket and, if you go back home, we will kill you and your family.”

Notice the “we” in “we will not select you again in cricket”. One largely ignored facet of this drama is that if Haider’s interlocutor existed he boasted of his power to pick the Pakistan XI. All three layers are present: potential reward, intermediary punishment, and death, not just for him but his family. If Haider is for real, the offer he was made and the warning he was given imply a connection between match- and spot-fixing, team selection and serious organised crime.

In other words they suggest corruption runs through many tiers of Pakistan cricket. In a recent editorial, the country’s Daily Times speculated: “The elephant in the room is the link between people wielding power and the bookmakers. It is alleged that a top bookmaker and mafia don have connections with a powerful intelligence agency in Pakistan.”

This is as far as conjecture can be pushed in the strange tale of Haider’s dash to Britain, which featured a chaotic press conference in the backroom of a curry house in Southall. To summarise, he claims he was approached before the fourth one-day international against South Africa, in which he hit 19 winning runs, and then fled before the fifth, the second target for the alleged match-fixers.

Here in England he has said players’ phones should be tapped to assist evidence gathering and that “a lot of people” are involved in the scam. He has said, too, that he does not want any aid from the British government beyond temporary asylum and has promised to co-operate with the International Cricket Council’s Anti‑Corruption and Security Unit.

To gain a sense of Haider’s motivation it is tempting to imagine him on that flight to London, knowing what was ahead of him and what lay behind: most poignantly, grave danger for his wife and daughters. No conclusion can be drawn from such a filmic and intuitive form of analysis, but most of us would think something fairly big must have spooked him in Dubai to cause him to run away from his family and his livelihood.

We would suspect also that a professional cricketer had to break in the end, and that Haider simply looks like the first to buckle. Heroic status eludes him, so far. No senior Pakistan cricketer, either serving or retired, has praised his actions. Some asked why he waited at least four days after the threat to his life to board a flight to London.

Denunciations fly in from those who say he ought to have “reported his concerns” to the Pakistan team management and the ICC’s detectives, which protocol required him to do.

And from Pakistan’s sports minister, Ijaz Hussain Jakhrani, came the most brutal condemnation: “If he is such a weak and scared person he should not have played cricket in the first place, particularly not for the national team.” Asif Iqbal weighed in: “He has let the motherland down. There wasn’t even a reserve wicketkeeper to replace him. He just flew off.”

This censorious tone obscures the dark realities of the past year. The current cycle of trouble began with the dubious tour of Australia, with its suspicious Sydney Test and nine straight defeats for Pakistan in all formats. After the News of the World’s spot-fixing exposé, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt are under an ICC provisional suspension and have had their central contracts cancelled by the Pakistan Cricket Board.

As pressure builds in India, the hub of cricket betting, to legalise and therefore regulate the wild east of gambling on the country’s national sport, you wonder why more punters are not put off by all the evidence suggesting choreography on the field of play. It’s an odd kink of human nature that people will go on betting in an apparently bent casino, as if to beat a crooked system confers more pleasure than winning against an honest house.

At the centre of this vast global issue is one man who stepped off a flight in London and told the BBC on Friday: “I want to be a good citizen.”

U.S. Walks Out as Iran Leader Speaks

By Neil MacFarquhar for The New York Times

UNITED NATIONS — President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran made a series of incendiary remarks in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday, notably the claim that the United States orchestrated the Sept. 11 attacks to rescue its declining economy, to reassert its weakening grip on the Middle East and to save Israel.

Those comments prompted at least 33 delegations to walk out, including the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Costa Rica, all 27 members of the European Union and the union’s representative, diplomats said.

The annual General Assembly started formally on Thursday, with scores of presidents, kings and ministers expected to address the gathering over the coming week. The speeches often fail to break new ground or lack electricity, so the occasional theatrics inevitably attract considerable attention.

Mr. Ahmadinejad rarely disappoints on that scale, although he seemed to go out of his way to sabotage any comments he made previously this week about Iran’s readiness for dialogue with the United States. The theme of his often flowery speech was that the capitalist world order was collapsing and he cited three examples: the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, and the pressure on Iran over its nuclear program.

He said there were three theories about the origins of the Sept. 11 attacks, including “that some segments within the U.S. government orchestrated the attack to reverse the declining American economy and its grips on the Middle East in order also to save the Zionist regime.”

The United States Mission to the United Nations swiftly issued a terse response. “Rather than representing the aspirations and goodwill of the Iranian people, Mr. Ahmadinejad has yet again chosen to spout vile conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic slurs that are as abhorrent and delusional as they are predictable,” it said in a statement.

It was not the first time Mr. Ahmadinejad espoused the theory, but never before so publicly. “The majority of the American people as well as other nations and politicians agree with this view,” he said.

Mr. Ahmadinejad obviously delights in being provocative during his annual visit to the United Nations. He framed his comments about Sept. 11 as an examination of opinions, an approach he has used repeatedly in questioning the Holocaust.

But his assertion that the majority of Americans agree with him surely lacked any factual basis. As did his claim that reviving the American economy was the motive behind the devastating attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon; the United States economy declined significantly after the attacks. In his interviews with journalists, much like during his debates with opponents in the disputed Iranian presidential election last year, Mr. Ahmadinejad has often been accused of making up statements wholesale.

But analysts noted that his remarks should be viewed through the prism of domestic politics in Iran, where conservatives try to outflank him. They said that during a recent Friday prayer sermon, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati said that 84 percent of Americans believed their own government was behind the attacks.

Iran also cultivates an image as the voice of all Muslims in confronting the United States, and the idea that Americans rather than Islamic extremists carried out the 2001 attacks has long resonated among Arabs. “This is very helpful to Ahmadinejad’s desire for greatness in the Arab world,” said Ali Mirsepassi, a professor of Middle Eastern studies and sociology at New York University.

The other two theories on the attacks presented by Mr. Ahmadinejad were that terrorists who penetrated American security were responsible, and that terrorists carried out the attacks but then the American government took advantage of the situation. He even suggested that the United Nations create a fact-finding panel to study the theories.

Farideh Farhi, an Iran expert at the University of Hawaii, said, “Apparently now he has decided that by going to the core of American sensitivities — in the same way he did with Israel by questioning the legitimacy of that country’s existence — he can continue to keep himself at the center of global attention while deflecting attention away from his dismal domestic record.”

Mr. Ahmadinejad also lambasted those Americans who had threatened to burn the Koran. “The truth could not be burned,” he said, hefting a green Koran aloft with his one hand and a black Bible with another, saying he respected both of them. “We should wisely avoid playing into the hands of Satan.”

The other speeches Thursday followed more traditional lines, although not without moments of passion.

Prime Minister Wen Jiabao of China focused his speech exclusively on China’s domestic accomplishments, with a brief global reference at the end when he suggested a vital, peaceful China was good for the world’s peace and prosperity.

The speech, entitled “Getting to Know the Real China,” lauded the country’s economic progress while recognizing that it had a way to go with 150 million people still living in poverty. Mr. Wen said China was determined to forge even greater progress through education, science and technology.

The Turkish president, Abdullah Gul, endorsed American efforts to negotiate peace in the Middle East, but criticized Israel both for its presumed nuclear arsenal and for attacking a Turkish-organized humanitarian convoy at sea in May during which nine people were killed.

“We hope that this new engagement can take us closer to a viable and fair settlement,” Mr. Gul said. “On the other hand, it would be very difficult to make progress toward permanent peace unless we put an end to the humanitarian tragedy in Gaza.”

Mr. Gul called the attack a violation of international law, and he welcomed a report released Wednesday by United Nations Human Rights Council, which endorsed that viewpoint.President Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi, speaking on behalf of the African Union, urged the General Assembly to defer for one year the war crimes charges brought by the International Criminal Court against President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan. He said that would avoid jeopardizing the outcome of a referendum scheduled for January on independence for southern Sudan.

Pakistan Are Over Here But Thinking About Home

By Stephen Brenkley for The Independent

Pakistan are here to win. Anybody who thought that they were in England this summer to make up the numbers, licking their wounds, grateful to be given a temporary home, would be misguided. 

They may indeed be the refugees of world cricket, unable to play in their own country because teams refuse to go there, but they will be nobody’s fools. It is the most bizarre of tours they have embarked on. Starting on Tuesday at Lord’s, they play the first of two Tests against Australia, which will be considered as home matches.

 They then play four Tests against England in which they will be the touring side. Such have been the ramifications of the terrorist activities at home. Pakistan have been forced to play where they can. “It’s a big tour. It’s not easy to get hold of 17 boys, a lot on their first tour here, and I don’t think we have ever played six Test matches in two months,” said Yawar Saeed, their wise, veteran manager.

 “We have a young side here and it was important to keep them together. There is plenty of talent in this team. The one sitting there, Umar Akmal, is just a bundle of talent, God is so kind to him. I have told him, if he doesn’t use his talent I will beat him one of these days. I see him as a future Vivian Richards. Look at his confidence at his age and look at the way he’s playing. He’s a very good kid and I’m trying to help him and the left-arm fast bowler, [Mohammad] Aamer, who’s only 18 and can also do great things.”

There is, of course, no physical intent by Yawar towards the precocious Umar, he merely makes the point to reinforce his desire not to waste his gifts. There has been precious little sign of that so far.

Yawar is on his 26th or 27th tour – he really has lost count – as manager. At 75, he thought he had unpacked for the last time but with the shifting of officials yet again in the Pakistan Cricket Board he has returned as a safe pair of hands. He is an Anglophile who was educated at Millfield, played for Somerset for three seasons in the mid-Fifties and whose father, Mohammad Saeed, was the first captain of Pakistan post-partition and pre-Tests.

At the core of the thinking of those who run cricket in Pakistan is the day when they can play at home again. Somehow, cricket is being sustained despite the lack of international competition but Yawar and the PCB hierarchy know that cannot last while understanding the virtual boycott.

The memory is still raw of the Sri Lanka team being attacked on the way to a Test in Lahore last year. Yawar and the Pakistan team were in a coach 40 yards behind. “The whole thing is dependent on the conditions and security within the country,” he said. “You have to ask: Yawar, if you were an Australian or an Englishman, would you go there? It’s very difficult, I don’t blame any of the people who are hesitant to come there. But all I can say is it’s not as bad as it looks from here. I’m not saying it’s perfect.”

Pakistan have taken a big risk by appointing as captain Shahid Afridi, who has been in regular trouble for ill-discipline. He has not so far shown diplomatic tendencies when they may be needed. In England four years ago, Pakistan’s tour was almost derailed when the Fourth Test was abandoned amid allegations of ball-tampering.

On the tour of Australia last winter, disharmony led to a whitewash and a series of disciplinary actions later on. Shahid himself was penalised for being spotted biting a ball. “We had problems about the captain,” said Yawar. “I can see in Shahid the one who can get them all together, mould them into one team. People who matter have had a chat with Shahid. I am very confident he’s going to be OK. Even this ball-biting thing, it’s just that he’s so keen, he’s keen to win like a lot of people, so he does lose control at times. I don’t think he will as captain.”

So to Australia on Tuesday. “Playing Australia you have got to be mentally tough. That’s where I’m working on them. I have seen Australia play, I have seen these boys play, I know their psyche. I can’t say that overnight we will become X, Y, Z, but you will see a graph going up by the Test match.”

But nobody in Pakistan will rest until the next touring team arrives to play this attractive, gifted young team. “It has to be reintroduced. I can’t put a date on it but I think that something should happen within the next three or four years. I would love to see cricket being played in Pakistan again. Before I say goodbye to this world, I would love to see that.”

 

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