Blog: What connects Falklands to death of Pakistan cricket

On April 3, 1982, the then-British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher decided to send 100 ships, carrying about 27,000 troops, to regain control of the Falklands from Argentina.

The Falklands War, which began in April and lasted till June 1982, resulted in both countries suffering heavy casualties and financial losses.

The Falkland Islands are an archipelago of hundreds of small and two large islands in the Atlantic Ocean, 480 km off the coast of Argentina and about 9,000 km from the United Kingdom.

The Islands lie nearly 15,000 km away from Pakistan, but they have been connected to the country and its cricket.

The Falkland Islands cover an area of more than 12,000 square kilometers with a population of only 3,000 people. The islands have been under British control since the early 18th century, but Argentina, the closest country, also claims sovereignty over the territory.

In 1982, President Leopoldo Glatier ordered an invasion of the British-controlled Falkland Islands. The British responded with full force and Argentina had to retreat after heavy loss of life and property.

The UK held a referendum in 2013 and claimed that the local population had voted in its favour. Argentina rejected the referendum.

Tension continues to simmer between the two countries.

Argentina has been subjected to British sanctions that involve an arms embargo since 1982.

In addition, the British always sought to prevent the rest of the world from selling to Argentina any equipment including fighter jets and ships that could jeopardize their control of the Falklands.

Most of the world’s ship or fighter jet building countries are British allies, so Argentina’s efforts to buy fighter jets have always failed until now.

Pakistan enters the picture

Pakistan has been working to revive international cricket at home since the attack on the Sri Lankan team in 2009. It has had successes in the form of visits from Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and South Africa since 2015.

The next leg of PCB efforts focused on the potential tours of New Zealand and England cricket teams after 18 and 15 years, respectively.

The decision of the New Zealand cricket team to return home after cancelling the tour of Pakistan and the decision of ECB to cancel the tour of Pakistan not only caused disappointment for the Pakistani fans but also raised several questions.

The New Zealand Cricket Board says it called off the tour due to security concerns in Pakistan. The England Cricket Board did not cite security concerns. It talked about the psychological and physical well being of players and staff.

New Zealand’s announcement came on 17 September, and on the same day, British broadcasters began reporting on Argentina’s purchase of fighter jets from Pakistan.

A report had been published in the UK Defence Journal about Pakistan’s sale of JF17 Thunder military jets to Argentina. The report says Pakistan planned to sell 12 jets initially.

For Argentina, the jets have become more important in the backdrop of dwindling airpower.

The Argentine Air Force clearly lost its effectiveness in 2015, when it retired the old fleet of Dassault Mirage 3 interceptor aircraft that had been the backbone of the Air Force until then. Buenos Aires has been trying to buy fighter jets from Sweden and South Korea since 2015, but both sellers backed out due to British pressure.

An agreement on the aircraft deal between Pakistan and Argentina has not yet been formally signed, and a spokesman for the Pakistan Air Force says the proposed allocation of funds by the Argentinian parliament did not mean the deal had been finalized.

It is expected that an official statement will be issued soon but Argentina’s allocation of funds in the budget seems to confirm the ongoing negotiations.

With New Zealand’s announcement to call off the Pakistan tour, rumors started circulating in the Pakistani media that the UK might be behind the New Zealand decision and that the threat mentioned by Black Caps was no more than an excuse.

Although Pakistan did not name any country at the official level, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid commented on New Zealand’s decision, calling it a conspiracy.

“New Zealand has just killed Pakistan cricket” was Shoaib Akhtar’s immediate response.

The temporal connection between the New Zealand decision and reports on the JF-17 deal suggests that the death blow originated somewhere else, not in New Zealand.


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