It was only a matter of time before the terrorist attack in Pulwama sent it's shockwaves into the world of sports and it took less than a week for the clock to start ticking. Two Pakistan shooters - Muhammad Khalil Akhtar and Ghulam Mustafa Bashir - and their coach Razi Ahmed, who were to participate in the ISSF World Cup Rifle/Pistol tournament here from February 20-28, will not travel to India.
The national shooting body of Pakistan (NRAP) said they will not travel due to delay in getting visas. Their Indian counterpart (NRAI), however, said that visas have been granted.
On a day of dramatic developments, NRAI informed in the afternoon that the visas of three-member Pakistan shooting contingent had been cleared.
"We (NRAI) got a confirmation from the Indian High Commission (Islamabad) that the visas have been granted to the said Pakistani shooters. The National Rifle Association of Pakistan (NRAP), through an email, have acknowledged this in afternoon that they have got confirmation of getting the visas from the Indian High Commission there," said Rajiv Bhatia, secretary general, the NRAI.
NRAP admitted that they had got information from Indian high commission that the visas had been granted. However, later in the evening NRAP said it had received a fresh communication that the visa applications were still being processed.
NRAP then shot off an angry letter to the NRAI and also marked a copy to the sport's world governing body - the International Sport Shooting Federation (ISSF).
"NRAP secretary general, Mr Razi Ahmad Khan, just now received a telephone call from the visa section of the Indian high commission in Islamabad that the visas of our team members are still under process and cannot be issued today (Monday). Flight of our team is booked for February 20 morning. It seems that we shall not be able to get the visa in Karachi by tomorrow (Tuesday)," read the mail by NRAP's executive vice-president Javaid S Lodhi to the NRAI.
"We also like to inform you (NRAI) we had earlier received a telephone call from the visa section of the high commission that visas of our team have been approved and will be issued on Monday but, two hours later, we received another call that there was a misunderstanding.
This is very unfortunate that despite very clear policy of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in this regard, our shooting team will be denied the opportunity to participate in the New Delhi World Cup which is an Olympic qualifying event," the mail added.
Speaking to a national daily, Lodhi confirmed that the Pakistan shooters will not travel to India. "We had submitted all the necessary documents on December 16, including the Indian home ministry's sanction letter and the NRAI's no-objection certificate (NOC) to carry ammunitions to Delhi for the championships. I don't know what changed in the last few days."
Razi was hinting at instances where photographs of various Pakistani cricketers inside the PCA Stadium in Mohali have been taken down in Indian sports clubs and stadium to show solidarity with the families of martyrs of the Pulwama terror attack.
Also, the telecast of Pakistan Super League (PSL) has been blacked out in India after IMG-Reliance backed out from broadcasting the league. This means that PSL will go off air unless the PCB brings in an alternate production services.
NRAI still hopeful
This has come as a shock to the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) as it is obligatory for any host nation to grant visas to all the participants in a World Cup event.
However, this is not the first time that India has denied visas to Pakistani sportspersons. During the World Junior Squash Individual & Team Championship in Chennai last July, six players and three officials were denied visas.
Given the confusion, NRAI secretary Rajiv Bhatia was under the impression that visas have been granted to Pakistani shooters.