Pakistan’s interior minister invites Taliban to play a friendly cricket match in a bid to revive stalled peace talks.
Pakistan’s interior minister on Monday offered to hold a cricket match with the Taliban as a way of reviving stalled talks on ending the militants’ bloody seven-year insurgency.
The government entered into a formal dialogue with the Taliban earlier this month, but the process faltered after the militants executed 23 kidnapped soldiers. The military has retaliated with a series of airstrikes in the tribal areas that border Afghanistan and are home to the Taliban’s top leadership, killing dozens.
But with talks on a sticky wicket, interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said cricket offered hope. “I have information that the Taliban 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 Taliban follow the Pakistan cricket team with keen interest so this can be a platform.”
Cricket is Pakistan’s main pastime. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is a diehard fan and former cricketer Imran Khan now leads the country’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.