Saturday, 24 March 2018 07:58 GMT

Pakistan minister offers Taleban cricket match for peace

(MENAFN -Arab News) ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: A top Pakistani minister provoked derision on social media Monday after he suggested the Taleban could swap their guns for cricket bats and offered to host a match with the militants to revive stalled peace talks

Pakistan’s government entered into a formal dialogue with the Taleban earlier this month, but the process faltered after the militants executed 23 kidnapped soldiers

The military has retaliated with a series of air strikes in the tribal areas that border Afghanistan and are home to the Taleban’s top leadership, killing dozens

But with talks on a sticky wicket, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said Monday that cricket could offer hope

“I have information that the Taleban keep an interest in cricket. So if this message can go through to them, we can have a cricket match with them which can have a better result,” he told reporters in Islamabad following an exhibition game

“The Taleban follow the Pakistan cricket team with keen interest so this can be a platform.&rdquo

Reaction to the announcement was overwhelmingly negative on Twitter, which is used mainly by the country’s English-speaking elite

In a reference to bloody toll inflicted by the Taleban on Pakistan’s forces over the years, one user called @MidhatZ, said: “Cricket on a red pitch and may be they could bowl with our soldiers heads?&ldquo

Another user, @kursed, termed the minister a “bloody lunatic” and said “he should invite the families of those beheaded” by the Taleban to the match

Cricket is Pakistan’s main pastime and is sometimes termed the country’s “second religion” after Islam

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is a diehard fan. And former cricketer Imran Khan now leads Pakistan’s third largest political party

Cricket diplomacy has helped thaw ties between Pakistan and rival India in the past, with a visit by military ruler General Zia Ul Haq to Jaipur in 1987 to watch a Test match seen as key in cooling raised tensions.

Pakistan minister offers Taleban cricket match for peace

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