Cricket fans in Pakistan have been left ruing their fate after being unable to travel to India for the ongoing ICC Cricket World Cup due to a lack of clarity on acquiring Indian visas.
Several match ticket holders told Al Jazeera that their money spent on the tickets will go to waste as the Indian High Commission in Pakistan has still not announced a visa policy for match ticket holders from Pakistan – even though the tournament began on October 5 and India will play Pakistan this Saturday in the biggest match in cricket.
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“We are not eligible for a refund as we fall under the ‘no show’ category,” Umer Faizan, a cricket fan who had tickets to Pakistan’s first two matches of the tournament, told Al Jazeera from Pakistan’s capital Islamabad.
“The tournament has been under way for nearly a week but there is still no visa policy for Pakistani fans,” he said.
Given the bitter ties between the two countries, the visa-seeking process is long and tedious and often requires background security checks from government security agencies on both sides, which can cause long delays.
Pakistanis planning to travel to India for special events, such as the World Cup, are asked to apply under special visa policies that are created to cater to match ticket holders and journalists covering such events.
Faizan bought the tickets in a pre-sale offer in August, nearly two months ahead of his team’s first match on October 6.
“I bought the tickets with three other friends and it was going to be a trip of a lifetime for us to go watch our team in India, but we have no information on how to get an Indian visa.”
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) says it has raised “serious concerns and alarm” over the dilemma faced by fans and journalists and conveyed the message to the Indian government via a long-winded diplomatic route.
“PCB Chairman Zaka Ashraf has asked Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Syrus Sajjad Qazi to take up the issue with India’s Home Ministry through Pakistan High Commission Office in New Delhi,” the board said in a statement this week.
Pakistan and India have downgraded diplomatic relations following the tensions emanating from the 2019 attacks in Indian-administered Kashmir and India’s retaliatory cross-border air attacks on what it called “terrorist training camps”.
On Wednesday, the PCB said Pakistani journalists had been asked to submit their passports to obtain visas after Ashraf’s “conversation with the foreign office helped in achieving a positive development”.
Earlier, Pakistani journalists were asked by the ICC to “submit” their questions for Pakistan’s post-match press conferences via WhatsApp messages to PCB’s media team who will read them out to the cricket team’s representatives.
So magnanimous of the organisers to allow Pakistani journalists to send questions for Pak press conference in by WhatsApp ahead of Pakistan’s 2nd game pic.twitter.com/ruamIyRlD6
— Osman Samiuddin (@OsmanSamiuddin) October 8, 2023
In 2011, India co-hosted the tournament with Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and several Pakistani fans and journalists were able to travel across the border for their team’s semifinal against their neighbouring country.
Sana Kazmi, a well-travelled die-hard Pakistan fan, watched the semifinal in Mohali in 2011 but has cancelled her plans to cross the border this time.
“In 2011, the Indian visa website was a complete nightmare to navigate but at least we got through in the end,” she said.
“This time, we aren’t able to access the website at all.”
Kazmi and her two friends crossed into India from the Wagah-Attari border hours ahead of the 2011 India-Pakistan semifinal.
When they needed help finding tickets and booking a hotel room, complete strangers from across the border saw Kazmi’s pleas for help on social media and stepped in to ensure Pakistani fans got help.
“If Pakistani fans or journalists post anything on social media about the difficulties they are facing in travelling to India for this World Cup, they receive crude and insulting responses from Indians,” Kazmi said.
A Pakistani fan who has tickets to the tournament’s marquee clash at Ahmedabad on Saturday said he has all but given up on being able to watch it at the world’s biggest cricket stadium.
“I spent thousands of [Pakistani] rupees to get my hands on ticket, but it will all go to waste as I have no hopes of getting a visa in time,” he told Al Jazeera, requesting anonymity.
“I have tried reaching out to government officials in Islamabad but they are as clueless about the visa process as us.”
Pakistani media and fans are not allowed to visit India for #WorldCup2023 – this is just appointment, no visa policy announced by Indian authorities for the World Cup, we have to rely on Indian media for the stories of Pakistani cricket team and then there are empty stadiums.
— Shiraz Hassan (@ShirazHassan) October 6, 2023