Presence of Prez, PM will not put pressure on players: Imran

Kolkata: Former Pakistan captain Imran Khan today denied that presence of President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani during the Indo-Pak semifinal clash would put extra pressure on the Pakistani cricketers, stating that last thing on the players` mind would be the face of their politicians.

"I don`t think it`s going to have any effect on the cricketers. Knowing what it is like to play a World Cup and knowing what it is like playing against India, I can tell you that the last thing on Pakistan cricketers mind would be the face of Asif Zardari," said Imran Khan.

"They (Pakistanis) would not be thinking of it. All they would be thinking is to win the match. And believe me the sight of Zardari will neither take away or add pressure on the Pakistan team," he added.

The cricketer-turned-politician felt that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh`s invitation to Pakistan`s top politicians is a positive move and a step in the right direction.

"At least two countries have started talking. Any dialogue is better than no dialogue. That`s a positive sign."

PM Manmohan Singh yesterday invited Gilani and President Zardari to join him in watching the semifinal clash between the two arch-rivals in Mohali on March 30.

Cricketing ties between the two countries were suspended in the wake of Mumbai terror attacks in 2008.

Recollecting General Zia-ul-Haq`s visit to India in 1987 for a Test match, Khan said, "It happened in 1987 -- the last time Pakistan played a Test series in India. There were a lot of tensions on the borders.

"General Zia made a surprised visit in Jaipur where we were playing a Test match. That situation was far more tense.

"It`s a move in the right direction. Eventually Pakistan and India would have to sit on the table and sort out main points of contentions."

Cricket diplomacy between the two nations is not a new phenomenon as not only Zia-ul-Haq but President Pervez Musharraf also used cricket matches to improve bilateral relations.

Musharraf watched a One-day match between the two neighbors in New Delhi in 2005.

However, Pakistan`s 1992 World Cup winning captain said both the countries` present governments were not "strong enough" to take any initiative and the cricket diplomacy over the high-voltage Indo-Pak clash would be reduced to a feel good show with opportunities for the photographers.

"Unfortunately, we do not have strong governments in both the countries...especially in Pakistan where we have the weakest government of all time. It is besieged by so many many crisis.

"I don`t think they will be in a position to come up with any major decisions," he said.

The legendary former Pakistani allrounder was equally candid about the Manmohan Singh-led Indian government.

"After what I`ve seen in India, I don`t think the Indian government is going to be able to make any initiative. So what will happen is that there will be a feel good factor. There will be talk, photographs. But I don`t think any concrete will come out of it."

Khan said things would have been better if Mumbai terrorists attack did not take place.

"Unless the contentious issues are sorted out, my worry is that there always be some sort of an incident like the Mumbai one. And after all the confidence building measures it will again be back to the square one. It would have been better had Mumbai terrorist attack did not take place.

"But don`t worry next election you can see my government in power and we can solve the issues," Khan who heads the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf party, said.