India refuses visa to ‘retd Pak army officer’, kabaddi team yet to arrive
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Even though the 19-member Pakistani contingent have been issued visas by the Indian consulate for the World Cup, it has emerged that team is adamant to get visa for a retired army officer, whose visa application has been turned down by India.
The team was supposed to reach to India on Saturday to participate in the inaugural ceremony of the World Cup held in Bathinda.
On Saturday, Punjab Public Relations Minister Bikram Singh Majithia had told The Indian Express that the state government had taken up the matter with the Centre, following which, 19-members of the Pakistani team had been given visas — the maximum number of people to get visas among the teams participating in the tournament. All other teams have come with 16-members squads — 14 of whom are players.
However, on Sunday, Punjab minister and president of the Punjab Kabaddi Association, Sikander Singh Maluka, said that the delay in Pakistani team's arrival was due to a "retired army officer of Pakistan being denied a visa".
"Already, visa has been issued to 19 members of the Pakistani team, while all other teams have come with 16-member contingents. The Pakistani team had given a list of more than 20 members, which was later trimmed to 20. Now, they want visa for a retired army officer. The Indian consulate, however, has some objections regarding issuance of visa to him. While he has been denied a visa, the other 19 members have got visas," Maluka said.
Asked in what capacity was the retired army officer accompanying the Pakistani team, Maluka said he was not aware of the details. "The state government can only request the Centre in such matters, it is for the Union government to take a final call. We, however, hope that Pakistani team would arrive," he added.
The Pakistani team is scheduled to play its first match against Sierra Leone at Hoshiarpur on December 3. As many as 16 teams were scheduled to participate in the tournament, of which, 14 have arrived so far. The other team that has failed to land up is Sri Lanka. Punjab Sports Secretary P S Aujla said there was some "internal dispute relating to two Kabaddi federations in Sri Lanka". "We have been told that the dispute has been resolved and the team is expected to arrive shortly," Aujla added.
Maluka further said that in case some teams arrived late, the itinerary of the matches could be changed, as the tournament was only in the league stage. "Even if these teams do not come, we already have 14 teams participating in the tournament," he added.