LAHORE: Pakistan cricket turmoil deepened Saturday after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) struck down the order issued by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the patron of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), that removed Zaka Ashraf as the chairman of the board and formed an eight-member committee led by Najam Sethi. Sharif had sacked Ashraf on February 10 this year and appointed the committee chaired by Sethi to oversee cricketing matters. Saturday's order meant all decisions taken by Sethi are now null and void – including the appointments of head coach Waqar Younis and Zimbabwean batting coach Grant Flower. The decision is once again set to send jitters in the board and the cricket team. The chairman musical chairs has severely affected the board and its plans, since May 2013 Ashraf has been sacked twice and reinstated twice, while Sethi has also been brought in and out of office twice. No doubt, the court orders are keeping the sport on its toes and providing soap opera lovers all the thrills, comedy and drama in this depressing environment.
Justice Noorul Haq Qureshi heard around 25 petitions from the employees of the PCB who were sacked by Sethi, and read out his decision in the court. Ashraf's lawyer Karim Kundi said the court decided to revert to the situation of February 10. “The notification of February 10 has been struck down as null and void as it was illegal, and as natural consequences Ashraf and other board staff who were superseded by the order are reinstated,” Kundi said. “We were not the petitioner but we were made a party of various petitions against Sethi for termination of dozens of employees,” Kundi added. “Wrapping up the various petitions, the judge suspended the SRO issued by the PM on February 10. And the natural legal interpretation suggests that Ashraf is back as chairman. I am not sure if there is any other interpretation but meanwhile this is the best understanding of the judge’s remarks,” he maintained.
In the last 12 months, Ashraf had been removed as the PCB chairman twice. He was suspended in May 2013 by the IHC after it ruled he had been elected via a ‘dubious’ and ‘polluted’ process. However, after a complicated legal process, he was reinstated by the same court on January 15 this year before Sharif dismissed him again on February 10. Ashraf hailed Saturday's decision. “This is a win for Pakistan cricket,” Ashraf told media. “I will try to correct the wrong things in Pakistan cricket and do whatever is good for Pakistan cricket. On the other hand, Sethi said he was waiting for the court's written orders. “I am waiting for the court's orders and it will be up to the government to appeal where they want,” Sethi told a private TV channel. “The instability in the PCB is not good for cricket,.” he stated. Last week the PCB had made public and internal audit which reported glaring mismanagement of funds by Ashraf in his earlier tenures, Ashraf though rubbished the claims and stated that all measures were taken in accordance with the rules and regulations of the board and he dint not indulge in any lavish spending. "There was a smear campaign launched against me by the current set up and I was removed illegally by the government as I was properly elected as chairman," Ashraf said.
Sethi was leading the eight-member management committee that also included Shahriyar Khan (former PCB chairman), Zaheer Abbas (former Pakistan captain), Naveed Akram Cheema (chief secretary, Punjab), Shakeel Sheikh (former member of PCB board of governors), Yousaf Naseem Khokhar (former member of PCB board of governors), Iqbal Qasim (former cricketer), Ijaz Chaudary (IPC secretary). The Ministry of Inter Provincial Coordination, which oversees sporting matters in the country, is likely to challenge the decision next week. The frequent changes have made Pakistan the laughing stock of international cricket. The Supreme Court earlier this year refrained from taking the case ahead, suggesting that the government has the authority to initiate changes within the PCB.
Crippling effect: The hullabaloos and legal mess have crippled the PCB and damaged the game more than anything else. The saner elements in the country not only want Pakistan cricket to come out of the mire, but also need some respite from this unending deluge of miserable drama in the PCB, which has plunged it to the lowest ebb. But instability and circus are continuing unabated. People of this ‘land of the pure’ are remain bewildered why these unpleasant incidents and extreme situations kept on recurring and why controversies simply refuse to spare Pakistan cricket. Perhaps they still not have realised by now that both in the national sphere and the sporting arena the root of our dilemma is the notorious system of patronage and imposed cronies, to the exclusion of merit and professionalism. Under the powerful patron’s benevolent gaze, the pick and choose appointees can survive scandals and failures that would crush an ordinary mortal.
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