The Union government on Thursday defended the decision to give visa to the former Pakistan cricket team captain, Javed Miandad, as his name did not figure in the “negative list,” even as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Shiv Sena lambasted the Centre for allowing entry to a person who has close links with underworld don and India’s most-wanted terrorist Dawood Ibrahim.

“He is a well-known cricketer… His visa application papers were in order and valid and that is why the government has decided to give him visa,” Minister of State for Home R.P.N. Singh told journalists here. He said visas were issued to Pakistani nationals for the ongoing cricket series between the two neighbours after a set of guidelines were issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid also told journalists in Bangalore that the decision to issue visa to Mr. Miandad was taken by the MHA. “What are the circumstances, what is considered when an approval is given... what goes into it, is an internal government matter. And I am sure they would have taken inputs from all concerned agencies and from our mission in Pakistan. I am sure they would have followed all procedures,” he said.

However, the Opposition parties, particularly the BJP and the Shiv Sena, have criticised the government for overlooking Mr. Miandad’s links to Dawood Ibrahim, who according to Indian security agencies lives in Karachi, before granting him a visa to watch the final one-day match between the two countries in Delhi on January 6.

Mr. Miandad’s son Junaid is married to Dawood’s daughter Mahrukh. The underworld don is the key accused in the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts case. Sources in the MHA said Mr. Miandad’s request for visa in 2005 was turned down by the Indian government for having family ties with Dawood.

Centre’s move questioned

Meanwhile, the BJP and Shiv Sena questioned the government’s move and asked how allowing a person related to Dawood Ibrahim to visit India would help improve bilateral ties.