LAHORE: A division bench of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday reinstated Zaka Ashraf as Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman, following a long complicated legal process. A detailed judgment is expected on Thursday (today). The two-member bench, consisting of Justice Riaz Ahmed Khan and Justice Noorul Haq Qureshi, announced its judgment on an appeal filed by Ashraf against his dismissal last July. This is a remarkable turnaround of fortunes for Ashraf, who had been suspended from the post in May last year by Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of the same court, after it was ruled that he was elected via a ‘dubious’ and ‘polluted’ process.
After Ashraf’s dismissal, the government appointed veteran journalist Najam Aziz Sethi as acting chairman but the same bench later also stopped him from exercising his full powers and ordered him to hold fresh elections. In a response to the court’s decision, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif amended the PCB constitution, making himself its ‘patron’ and restoring Sethi’s powers. With no elections in sight, the government appointed a strong Interim Management Committee (IMC) with Sethi as its head to oversee cricket affairs. But with this latest judgment, the IMC also ceases to exist. Asked whether the PCB would appeal the judgment, Sethi said it wasn’t up to him to make that decision. “This is a question that you must ask Inter Provincial Coordination Committee (IPC) and government of Pakistan. I was not, nor am I now, a petitioner or appellant. I was appointed by Prime Minster Nawaz Sharif and now he has to decide the course of action.”
Ashraf, appointed as PCB chairman in October 2011, was elected chairman in May 2013, under a new constitution, in which the role of the patron of the board – at that point the President of Pakistan – had been changed. Where before the patron simply appointed a chairman for however long a term he chose, under the new constitution, the patron would recommend two candidates for the post, who would then be interviewed by a nomination committee. The nomination would then have to be approved by a restructured PCB governing council. In Ashraf’s case, the problem with election was at two levels. One, it was done secretively and in a hurry, ahead of the country’s general elections in which the party Ashraf derived his power from – the Pakistan People’s Party – was eventually voted out. Two, the composition of the governing council was questionable, with no representation on it of the entire province of Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous and arguably its most dominant in terms of cricket players.
Despite Ashraf’s reinstatement, all and sundry are eagerly awaiting for the detailed judgment whether Ashraf has been restored conditionally or otherwise. Pakistan cricket has been embroiled in controversies on and off the field, the biggest being match-fixing in 2000 and 2010, which resulted in top cricketers being banned. Talking to reporters here yesterday after the verdict, Ashraf said he was elated with the decision and it was vindication he was elected constitutionally and properly in the first place. “I hope everyone accepts this decision wholeheartedly and we can start working for the betterment of Pakistan cricket. I plan to go to office in two days’ time. I respected court orders before and I respect it now, and will continue to work for the betterment of cricket in Pakistan. Cricket is a non-political game and is supported by millions in Pakistan. This legal process has hurt Pakistan cricket badly,” said Ashraf.
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