Pakistani cricket presenter Zainab Abbas leaves India amid backlash over ‘derogatory’ comments

ICC-accredited presenter leaves Hyderabad where she was assigned to cover Pakistan’s World Cup games

Sakshi Gupta
Tuesday 10 October 2023 11:07 BST
File photo: Zainab Abbas during the The Hundred match between Birmingham Phoenix Men and Southern Brave Men at Edgbaston in Birmingham on 10 August 2022
File photo: Zainab Abbas during the The Hundred match between Birmingham Phoenix Men and Southern Brave Men at Edgbaston in Birmingham on 10 August 2022 (Getty Images)

Pakistani presenter Zainab Abbas has left India after facing backlash over “derogatory and provocative” social media posts that a local Indian lawyer claimed were made by her against his country.

Abbas, 35, was part of the official digital team covering the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023.

The Pakistani presenter’s departure comes on the heels of an earlier controversy in which Pakistan’s cricket team had not received their visas until the last minute. India and Pakistan share hostile relations and have stopped playing bilateral cricket matches unless they are part of a larger multi-nation tournament.

Indian media reports claimed Abbas left India because of “security concerns” after a complaint was filed in the cyber cell of Indian national capital Delhi’s police last week.

While other Indian media reports alleged she was deported, an ICC official refuted the assertion. “Zainab has not been deported, she has left for personal reasons,” an ICC spokesperson told news agency Press Trust of India.

Discussions of Abbas’s historic tweets have exploded online in India, with her name becoming one of the top trending topics associated with the Cricket World Cup in recent days.

An Indian lawyer named Vineet Jindal has filed a complaint alleging the ICC presenter posted “derogatory remarks for Hindu faith and beliefs and for anti-Bharat statements”, according to an X/Twitter post by him.

Bharat refers to the name used for India in the Hindi language.

The lawyer posted screenshots of posts made by an X/Twitter account with Abbas’ likeness.

While one of the screenshots was of a 2019 post by Abbas, it is unclear if the other posts shared by the lawyer were made by Abbas.

“Eid Mubarak to all. The true spirit of this Eid is sacrifice & we must remember the sacrifices by the people of Kashmir for their right of self determination,” Abbas said in the 2019 post from her official X account, referring to the contested region that both India and Pakistan administer in part and claim in full.

“It is time for the world to stand for what is right. Have a blessed one,” she said.

The other screenshots shared by Jindal had a different handle name from Abbas’ official X account.

His complaint alleged Abbas was responsible for this second “unofficial” X account, reported the BBC. The posts themselves are no longer accessible.

Jindal on X said he filed complaint and urged police to register a First Information Report – the first step towards any official police investigation – over the comments. He also tagged the ICC and BCCI secretary Jay Shah, urging them to sack the Pakistani presenter from the team of commentators.

The Independent has reached out to Abbas for comment.

The lawyer had quote posted on a tweet by Abbas in which she said “there was always intrigue on what lies on the other side”, referring to India.

“There was always intrigue on what lies on the other side, more cultural similarities than differences, rivals on the field but camaraderie off the field, the same language & love for art & a country with a billion people, here to represent, to create content & bring in expertise from the best in the business,” she had said in her post.

“Humbled to be presenting in India at the Cricket WC2023 for the @ICC again, a journey away from home of 6 weeks starts now.”

The lawyer on Tuesday claimed Abbas left India to avoid legal action for what he alleged were “derogatory and provocative posts”.

Abbas left India from Hyderabad city, where she had arrived last week and was assigned to cover Pakistan’s three World Cup matches. She was expected to travel to cities where Pakistan are scheduled to play, including Bengaluru, Chennai and Ahmedabad.

The presenter was at Hyderabad’s Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium for Pakistan’s World Cup opener against the Netherlands that took place on 6 October.

Pakistan started their World Cup campaign with an 81-run victory over Netherlands.

The side led by Babar Azam will next take on Sri Lanka in Hyderabad on 10 October.

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