Pakistani cricket presenter Zainab Abbas breaks silence after World Cup exit

File image: Zainab Abbas speaks at a T20 match between Pakistan and England at Karachi National Stadium in September 2022

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Pakistani presenter Zainab Abbas has apologised over historic tweets after her controversial exit from the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023, while dismissing rumours that she was deported from India.

Abbas admitted that the backlash in India to some of her historic social media posts was a factor in her leaving the country, saying she “felt intimidated and scared” by the growing furore online.

The presenter’s name become one of the most discussed phrases around the World Cup in the early stages of the tournament after users discovered old posts on X, formerly known as Twitter, which some said were “derogatory and provocative” towards India.

They included a 2019 post that spoke of “the sacrifices by the people of Kashmir for their right of self determination”. Kashmir is a disputed region administrated in part by both India and Pakistan, and the two countries have fought three wars over the issue since gaining independence.

Several media outlets earlier claimed that Abbas left India because of “security concerns” after a complaint was filed by an Indian lawyer in the cyber cell of the Indian national capital Delhi’s police last week.

Abbas did not mention the complaint but admitted that she “felt intimidated and scared” by the social media reaction against her old social media posts.

“I was neither asked to leave nor was I deported. However, I felt intimidated and scared by the reaction that was unfolding online. And even though there was no immediate threat to my safety, my family, and friends from both sides of the border were concerned. I needed some space and time to reflect on what had transpired,” added Abbas.

“I understand and deeply regret the hurt caused by the posts that were circulated. I wish to make clear that they do not represent my values or who I am as a person today. There is no excuse or space for such language, and I sincerely apologise to anyone who was offended. Also, I am truly grateful to those who were concerned and reached out during this challenging time.”

The presenter had travelled to India as an accredited member of the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) digital team. Abbas, who was posted in Hyderabad for Pakistan’s first two games of the World Cup, left India on Monday 9 October.

The controversy surrounding Abbas came amid a wider row over visas for journalists, spectators and even players from Pakistan to travel to India for the tournament. The entire Pakistan cricket team did not receive their visas until the last minute ahead of the World Cup.

Both India and Pakistan have won their opening two matches and are now set to come face to face on Saturday, in one of the most hotly anticipated fixtures of the tournament so far.

In her lengthy statement on X, Abbas said she felt “extremely fortunate and grateful for the opportunities to travel and present the sport I love [and] this one would have been extra special”.

Speaking of her few days in India, Abbas added: “My daily interactions with everyone during my stay were kind, cheerful, and with a sense of familiarity – just as I had expected.”

Visiting India after a gap of seven years, the Pakistan cricket team, led by Babar Azam, said they had been overwhelmed with the generous welcome they received when they landed in Hyderabad for the World Cup.

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