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Pakistan-Afghanistan cricket ties hit after Kabul blast

Afghanistan rules out 'mutual relationship agreement' in cricket after Pakistan blamed for deadly suicide Kabul attack.

Relations between the Afghanistan and Pakistan cricket boards have taken a hit following the suicide blast in Kabul, with the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) seeking to "cancel all kinds of cricket matches and mutual relationship agreement with the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB)".

Wednesday's suicide blast in Kabul's diplomatic district killed at least 90 people and left 400 others wounded.

While there has been no claim of responsibility, Afghanistan's intelligence agency has blamed Pakistan and the Taliban-linked Haqqani network for the attack.

The ACB, in a strongly worded statement, put the renewal of cricketing ties between the two countries on hold while effectively blaming Pakistan for having a hand in the Kabul bombing.

"By killing innocent and destitute people today, the enemies of Afghanistan's peace and stability showed that they are not worthy of friendship and will not change their stance against Afghans," the statement read.

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"In light of findings of security services and calls by the Afghan people, the ACB hereby cancels all kinds of cricket matches and mutual relationship agreement with the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).

"No agreement of friendly matches and mutual relationship agreement is valid with a country where terrorists are housed and provided safe havens."

Last week, the ACB delegation, including its chairman Atif Mashal, had visited Lahore and agreed on resuming cricketing ties at youth and senior levels.

Pakistan were set to play their first Twenty20 match in Kabul later this year followed by a fixture in Pakistan and a full series at an unspecified date.

"We know there is tension in the border but it's my job to keep this interaction between two cricketing nations going and to help governments start something positive," Mashal had said in Lahore.

"We are trying our best to keep sports, especially cricket, away from politics as well as looking for our national interests."

On Thursday, the PCB also issued a statement rejecting what it termed "baseless allegations" about Pakistan backing terrorism while also claiming the PCB had cancelled a proposed cricket series on the basis of ongoing insecurity in Afghanistan.

"It is also deeply regrettable that the ACB delegation in Pakistan was at pains to insist that politics should not impinge on cricket but has now turned around and is playing politics by laying the blame for its own troubles and inadequacies on Pakistan," the PCB statement said.

"The PCB has always encouraged the development of cricket in Afghanistan and millions of Afghan refugees were first introduced to the game in Pakistan.

"Over the years, the PCB helped cricketers in Afghanistan develop their expertise and an entire generation of Afghan national players honed their cricketing skills in Pakistan."

Cricket struggled to get a foothold in Afghanistan under the Taliban but became hugely popular since the group was toppled in 2001.

A number of Afghanistan players learnt how to play cricket in Pakistan. They were also regular fixtures during the short Ramadan leagues taking place in the southern Pakistan city of Karachi.

Relations between the two governments were dealt a big blow when at least 15 people were killed and dozens others wounded after a cross-border battle between the two sides during a Pakistani population census near the border last month.

The attack near the Chaman crossing point in Balochistan province prompted security forces to ask people to evacuate villages on the border.

Chaman, one of the two main border crossings between Pakistan and Afghanistan, was closed in the wake of the incident.

Afghanistan's foreign ministry said it had warned Pakistan against conducting the census in the villages in the border area, which remains disputed between the two countries.

Pakistan and Afghanistan share a roughly 2,500km-long border, which runs through mountainous terrain and remains largely unpoliced.

Recent Pakistani attempts to establish fences and border posts along the border, with the stated aim of curtailing the movement of Taliban fighters into Pakistan, have been resisted by Afghanistan.

In February, Pakistan sealed all border crossings with Afghanistan for over a month after a wave of attacks across Pakistan killed more than 100 people.

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