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Zainab Abbas: Pakistani Cricket Commentator Leaves India After Backlash

A Pakistani presenter covering the Cricket World Cup in India has left the country after a backlash over alleged “derogatory” posts on social media.

Zainab Abbas was part of the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) digital team covering the event.

Abbas left on Monday amid claims by some local media organisations that she was forced to go.

However, an ICC spokesperson told the BBC that she had left for personal reasons.

Abbas has made no public statement on her departure. The BBC has contacted her for comment.

Relations between Indian and Pakistan are tense – the neighbours have fought three wars since they became independent nations in 1947. The two countries are due to play a one-day match on Saturday in the western city of Ahmedabad.

A sports journalist and commentator since 2015, Abbas became the first woman sports reporter and commentator in 2019 to cover the cricket World Cup from Pakistan.

She arrived in India last week and had reported on Pakistan’s World Cup opener against the Netherlands on 6 October in Hyderabad, news agency Press Trust of India reported. She was due to travel to Bengaluru, Chennai and Ahmedabad for Pakistan’s other matches.

But after a lawyer in the capital, Delhi, lodged a police complaint against her last week over her alleged old tweets, she faced a huge backlash on social media.

Advocate Vineet Jindal’s complaint alleged that Abbas had an unofficial account on X (formerly Twitter) on which she had posted “derogatory and provocative posts” mocking India and Hindu religion.

The screenshots show these posts date back several years but they are no longer available on the social media platform.

Mr Jindal’s complaint also cited a tweet from Abbas’s official X account in which she wrote about Kashmir’s right to self-determination. The Himalayan region is divided between India and Pakistan and both claim it in full.

On X, Mr Jindal also shared a letter he wrote at the weekend to Home Minister Amit Shah and his son Jay Shah, the secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the governing body of Indian cricket, seeking the commentator’s removal as an ICC presenter.

Several users in India shared screenshots of posts, attributed to her unverified account, and criticised Abbas, making her name trend on X on Tuesday.

In Pakistan too, her name has been among the top trends on X, but there many users have been defending her and questioning the veracity of the posts shared in her name.

Pakistani journalist Rizwan Ghilzai said Abbas had a “safe exit” from India. “She has been facing threats in India over her social media posts,” he wrote on X. “Sad that @ICC couldn’t protect its presenter.”

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