For Pakistanis contemplating crossing the border to watch the revived Indo-Pak cricket series beginning late next month, an Indian sponsor giving an undertaking for their visit and possession of match ticket will be made mandatory.
These conditions have been imposed to ensure stricter norms for offering visas to Pakistanis coming here to watch matches. This is part of an attempt to add more security features for procuring travel document to avoid its misuse, if any, by the neighbouring country’s intelligence agency and terror elements.
A committee was formed by the ministry to look into the issue of visa as at least 12 Pakistani spectators of the previous matches played here in 2007 are still untraceable, giving rise to suspicion that they might have been used for anti-national activities.
The security agencies cannot lower their guard though, with better security in place, Pak cricket fans who had witnessed the 2011 World Cup semi-final in Mohali and Punjab had returned home.
Government sources said since they cannot verify the antecedents of visiting guests, more conditions—other than regular information required to be filled—have been imposed so that sponsors can be held accountable in case of any eventuality. Pakistani-American terrorist David Headley and Lashker-e-Toiba Abu Jundal in their questioning had revealed that Lashker activists and ISI operative had utilised the opportunity to watch cricket matches in the past to carry out recce of vital installations, including National Defence College.
The fans will be at liberty to watch more than one match of the series that is spread over 13 days, with three one-dayers starting on December 25 followed by two Twenty20 internationals. They will have to buy and attach tickets in advance to avail the visa, sources said.
While the one-day matches will be held in New Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata, the Twenty20 games will be held in Bangalore and Ahmedabad.
As of now, Pak citizens can get visas to three cities, but many tough conditions are there to follow.
Meanwhile, the two nations are still to implement a new liberal visa regime, ratified by their respective governments. The visa agreement, signed two months ago by former external affairs minister S M Krishna and interior minister Rehman Malik in Islamabad, intends to ease curbs on providing travel document to elderly persons, children, members of civil society, tourists and traders.