Ipoh, Malaysia: Pakistan did not play in the inaugural Hockey India League and it is extremely unlikely that they will also feature in the next year's event as Pakistan Hockey Federation is reluctant to sent its players to India because of the current tension prevailing between the two nations.
PHF secretary Asif Bajwa said the way present situation stands the Federation was not keen on sending the players for the second edition of the event to be held across different cities in India from January 23 to February 23 next year.
"We have received a communication from Hockey India to give 'No Objection Certificates' to Pakistani players for next year's hockey league but it is unlikely that we will send our players until and unless the situation between the two countries improves. As of now we will not send our players for next year's league," Bajwa told PTI on the sidelines of the ninth Asia Cup hockey tournament here.
"Last time we saw what happened. We were really worried for our players. The way the current situation is what is the guarantee this sort of thing will not happen again?
"We need to give confidence to our players that they will be safe in India," he added.
The simmering tension on the Indo-Pak border earlier this year spilled over to the sporting arena when Hockey India decided to send back all the nine Pakistani players taking part in the HIL following protests over the killing of Indian soldiers.
After protests by Shiv Sena and other right-wing organisations disrupted the training and the first match of the league, Hockey India took the decision to send back the Pakistani players considering the "extra-ordinary circumstances".
The nine players who were sent back were Mahmood Rashid, Fareed Ahmed, Muhammad Tousiq, Imran Butt (Mumbai Magicians), Mohammed Rizwan Sr. and Mohammad Rizwan Jr. (Delhi Waveriders), Kashif Shah (Jaypee Punjab Warriors) and Muhammed Irfan and Shafqat Rasool (Ranchi Rhinos).
The PHF secretary said the need of the hour for both the countries is resumption of bilateral hockey ties. India and Pakistan last played way back in 2006 -- three matches each in both the countries.
India and Pakistan were scheduled to resume hockey ties earlier this year but the proposed home-and-away bilateral series was called off after the Indian government had refused permission on security grounds.
"We tried hard to resume bilateral hockey ties. Even Hockey India had also put in great efforts and signed an MoU with us, but unfortunately it could not be resumed because of things which are beyond our control," Bajwa said.
"India and Pakistan need to play more against each other on a consistent basis. Then only we will be able to match the European teams," he added.
The Pakistan hockey team was expected to play matches in Ranchi, Lucknow, Delhi, Mohali and Jalandhar between April 5-15.
After Pakistan's visit, the Indian team was scheduled to pay a return visit and play five matches in Lahore, Faisalabad, Karachi and Sialkot from April 23.
Pakistan will miss next year's World Cup for the first time since the introduction of the tournament in 1971 after having failed to win the Asia Cup, their only passage to the showpiece event to be held at The Hague, Netherlands.
Pakistan, who lost 1-2 to Korea in the semifinals, however had something to cheer for as they defeated hosts Malaysia 3-1 to at least return with the bronze from the eight-nation tournament.
"It is a big disappointment that we didn't qualify for the World Cup. It is very sad for Asian hockey. We will have to introspect what went wrong after going back and correct those things," Bajwa said.