The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has hit out at England for cancelling next month's tour there due to concerns over the "mental and physical well-being" of their players and staff.
The decision by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) follows New Zealand's bombshell move on Friday to abruptly pull the plug on their first Pakistan tour in 18 years, citing a security alert.
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England have now withdrawn both their men's and women's teams from next month's tour of Pakistan, in what would have been the first ever by an England women's team and the first by their male counterparts since 2005.
"We know there are increasing concerns about travelling to the region," the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said on Monday, "and believe that going ahead will add further pressure to a playing group who have already coped with a long period of operating in restricted COVID environments.
"The mental and physical well-being of our players and support staff remains our highest priority and this is even more critical given the times we are currently living in."
Foreign teams stopped touring Pakistan after terrorists attacked the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore in 2009 killing six policemen and two civilians, and injuring several Sri Lankan cricketers,. They resumed in 2019 but England had yet to visit.
Australia, who are scheduled to visit in February-March next year, also appear wary. A Cricket Australia spokesperson said the organisation was monitoring the situation and would "talk with the relevant authorities once more information becomes known".
England's move is the latest blow to Pakistan, with PCB chairman Ramiz Raja telling the BBC his organisation feels let down by the decision.
"It's absurd. We have gone out of our way to accommodate international sides," Raja said.
"I'm extremely disappointed and so are the fans. Right now, we needed England.
"It's a small cricket fraternity that we have. We were expecting England to be a little bit more responsible. We are hurt, but forward we shall move."
The England men and women's teams were each scheduled to play two Twenty20 international matches on October 13 and 14 in Rawalpindi, with the women's side due to stay on for a three-match one-day international series from October 17-21.
The ECB added that the men's team touring under such conditions would not be ideal preparation for the Twenty20 World Cup that begins next month.
"We understand that this decision will be a significant disappointment to the PCB [Pakistan Cricket Board], who have worked tirelessly to host the return of international cricket in their country," it added.
"We are sincerely sorry for the impact this will have on cricket in Pakistan and emphasise an ongoing commitment to our main touring plans there for 2022."
Pakistan Cricket Board reeling after latest setback
Raja insisted that the Pakistan team would "survive" but reiterated his disappointment with England in a post on social media.
"Disappointed with England, pulling out of their commitment and failing a member of their cricket fraternity when it needed it most," Raja wrote.
"A wake up call for Pakistan team to become the best team in the world for teams to line up to play them without making excuses."
After a decade spent trying to woo back cricket's international elite, Pakistan is facing the prospect of being declared the game's no-go area again, and the anger is palpable.
It is a massive setback for the cricket-mad nation which moved heaven and earth to project itself as a safe destination and won tour commitments from several leading teams.
"It's been pretty gut-wrenching," PCB chief executive Wasim Khan told a virtual news conference on Sunday.
"We've done a huge amount of work in building our credibility back up again in world cricket. The rug has been pulled out from under our feet as quick as that.
"The abrupt departure of New Zealand has left many scars for us, and we just certainly hope that this is not going to have long-term consequences for us moving forward."
With the Taliban sweeping to power in neighbouring Afghanistan, Pakistan will have to work extra hard to convince other teams to tour the country.
Shunned by all after the deadly 2009 attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore, Pakistan's "home" matches in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have been played without fan support and earned the PCB little in the way of revenue. Pakistan has no plans to again move home games offshore.
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