India pulls down Imran Khan portraits over Kashmir killings

Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) slammed the removal of the portraits

India pulls down Imran Khan portraits over Kashmir killings PHOTO: AFP

Cricket stadiums around India have taken down portraits of Pakistan's former captain-turned-Prime Minister Imran Khan amid protests over the killing of 41 paramilitaries in Indian-administered Kashmir last week.

India has blamed Pakistan for the suicide attack on a military convoy that sparked widespread calls for action against the country's neighbour.

Khan, who led Pakistan to a World Cup victory in 1992, is considered one of the best players ever, and his portrait is found at many grounds around the world.

But the Cricket Club of India in Mumbai and the Test ground at Mohali have led the portrait protests by removing pictures of Khan and other Pakistan stars.

"We respect the sentiments of the people of India who are angry by what happened in Kashmir. In protest we took off the pictures of all Pakistani players," Punjab Cricket Association treasurer Ajay Tyagi told AFP. "We have kept them in safe custody and will see later what we are going to do about them.”

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) slammed the removal of the portraits.

"We have always believed and emphasised that sports and politics should be kept separate. History tells us that sports, particularly cricket, have always played a key role in building bridges between people and countries," PCB managing director Wasim Khan said in a statement.

He called the protests "highly regrettable."

Indian production company IMG Reliance has pulled out of producing the Pakistan Super League Twenty20 matches for broadcasters because of the Pulwama attack

India froze bilateral cricketing ties with Pakistan after deadly attacks on Mumbai in 2008 blamed on militants based across the border.

The arch rivals only play each other abroad, and are next scheduled to meet in the World Cup in England starting June 15.

Several fans and a Mumbai cricket official have asked India to boycott their World Cup match against Pakistan in June this year after a suicide bomber killed 44 members of the Indian paramilitary police in Kashmir last week.

On Thursday, a convoy of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) was targeted by the bomber in an attack where Pakistan-based Islamist militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) claimed responsibility.

India and Pakistan have not played a bilateral series since 2013 but they have faced each other in tournaments such as the 2017 Champions Trophy and 2018 Asia Cup, both at neutral venues.

They are scheduled to play in Manchester on June 16.

"We condemn the terror activities carried out against our army and CRPF personnel," Cricket Club of India (CCI) secretary Suresh Bafna told Reuters partner ANI. “Though CCI is a sporting association but nation comes first, even before sports.”

Acting secretary of the Indian cricket board (BCCI) Amitabh Choudhary could not be reached for comments but a boycott appears unlikely.