Pakistan calls for police investigation into World Cup fan clashes with Afghanistan

Fans clash during the Afghanistan vs Pakistan match on June 29

Pakistan has demanded a UK police investigation into alleged abuse of its players and the flying of political flags after its cricket World Cup victory over Afghanistan was marred by crowd trouble.

The thrilling Headingley match was blighted by clashes between rival fans in an outbreak of violence rarely seen at cricket matches.

Four arrests took place as fans skirmished outside the ground and a group attempted to break through gates. After Pakistan’s three-wicket victory, supporters charged on to the pitch, with fans captured on camera throwing punches at each other in the stands.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry said the scuffles and flying of anti-Pakistan banners were “a matter of deep concern”.

A statement said Pakistan expected “all relevant authorities, both sports and law enforcement, to thoroughly investigate the matter and bring those responsible to account.

“The matter is also being taken up through diplomatic channels.”

A steward tackles a pitch invader during the Pakistan vs Afghanistan match on June 29
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 CREDIT: ACTION IMAGES VIA REUTERS

The neighbouring nations have a fraught history and share a border which Afghanistan does not recognise. Both sides accuse the other of fomenting insurgencies inside their territories, with Kabul blaming Pakistan’s military for harbouring and sponsoring the Taliban.

Pakistani media reported that tempers at the match had been provoked by the flying of a banner declaring “Justice for Balochistan”.

Pakistan’s largest and poorest province is in the grip of long-running separatist insurgencies. Baloch activists accuse Pakistan’s army of abductions, torture and killings as it tries to put down the unrest.

World Cup officials were reportedly shocked by the extend of the trouble around Saturday’s match. Pre-match intelligence briefings by police had played down the chances of violence.

Two inquiries were launched on Sunday to establish the reasons behind the outbreaks of violence.

Afghanistan’s skipper, Gulbadin Naib, said after the match that he wanted to leave a good impression of his country.

He said: “We’re here to show to the world we want friendship.

“To all the audiences watching these kinds of matches, this is only a cricket game. Just watch the cricket game. It’s a sport.”

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