IHC declares all decisions by Najam Sethi as ‘null and void:’ Zaka takes charge of PCB as turmoil lingers on

LAHORE: Pakistan's reinstated cricket chief Zaka Ashraf took charge of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) here on Monday with the future of national head coach Waqar Younis and batting coach Grant Flower hanging in the balance. Ashraf was restored to the PCB chairmanship by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) ruling on Saturday, reigniting the chaos that has raged for month's among the game's administrators. Ashraf has said he will review all decisions taken in the last three months by Najam Sethi, the man thrown out as chairman by the IHC order. In a detailed ruling issued Monday, the court cancelled all decisions taken by the Sethi's team, including the appointment of Waqar and Flower, as well as chief selector Moin Khan and spin bowling coach Mushtaq Ahmed.

Ashraf arrived at the PCB headquarters yesterday afternoon with a large convoy of his supporters. "Eventually justice prevailed," he told reporters on arrival. "I always respected the court decision, and even if it was against me I could have accepted that as well. The court judgment says that all decisions in my absence are nullified but I will review them," he added. Flower and Ahmed were appointed only last week, while confirmation of Waqar's return for a second spell as head coach came on May 6.

Ashraf said it was time the government accept the court's decision and respect it. "I respect the government and am keen to work with it but the decisions of the judiciary also must be respected and accepted," he said. "I have done nothing wrong if there is a crisis in Pakistan cricket it is because some people are unjustly challenging my election as chairman of the board. They are causing problems not me," he said when asked what he felt about the court regularly giving judgements on cricket issues and how the image of Pakistan cricket was damaged by these events. "I was legally elected chairman that is why the court restored me not once but twice. I think Sethi needs to now accept this position and do something else. I am looking forward to working again for the betterment of Pakistan cricket," Ashraf maintained.

In its 26-page order, the IHC said the lawyers appearing for the respondents could not "prove the reason for removal of the earlier set-up of the board." The court said merely leveling allegations against Ashraf without proof to back them up was insufficient evidence, and therefore the "notification for supersession of Pakistan Cricket Board is purely an arbitrary exercise, which is entirely based on malafide. "Therefore, the impugned notification (dated February 10, 2014, which dismissed Ashraf) superseding duly elected body of Pakistan Cricket Board without assigning any reason is required to be struck down. The same is therefore hereby annulled."

The ongoing turmoil in the PCB administration dates back to May 2013, when Ashraf became the PCB's first elected chairman. Shortly after he took office the IHC - responding to a petition filed by a former Rawalpindi Cricket Association official - suspended Ashraf, calling the process that elected him 'dubious and polluted.' In June, the IHC upheld Ashraf's suspension and later that month Sethi, a senior journalist and former caretaker chief minister of Punjab, was named the interim PCB chairman by the Government of Pakistan. The very next month, the IHC directed the Election Commission of Pakistan to carry out polls for the PCB chairman's post by October 18 and overruled all major decisions taken by the Sethi administration.

The elections, however, never took place and after a succession of legal developments - including the dissolution of the PCB's governing board in October and the formation of a five-man interim committee headed by Sethi to run Pakistan cricket - the IHC reinstated Ashraf as PCB chairman in January. The reappointment was short-lived because, in February, the Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif dismissed Ashraf again and dissolved the board of governors, and Sethi returned as chairman, heading an eight-member committee to run cricket in Pakistan. This is the administration the IHC's latest ruling has done away with.

Pakistan face a busy summer of preparations as they look to build their talented but raw side into serious contenders for next year's World Cup. The International Cricket Council (ICC) introduced major changes to the sport's governance and financing earlier this year, handing significant powers to the so-called 'Big Three' of India, England and Australia. Pakistan abstained on the matter at an ICC meeting in February but last month offered "conditional support" for the plan, a move Ashraf said he would now look at again. "My principle stance was that the revamp is not good for international cricket but now if the PCB (led by Sethi) has signed the draft we will only look into it and not make Pakistan a laughing stock," he said. The proposal will be formally approved at ICC annual conference in Australia next month.

Over the years, one thing seems to have remained constant in Pakistan cricket; the desire for power and personal gain. The ones who have little appetite for either of these temptations, seldom survive the system that feeds off of it. It is not a matter of right or wrong, but the survival of the fittest. Anyone who is in the position to exercise power does exactly that. Merit and qualifications matter little when jobs are assigned through political alliances, social associations or as a return gesture of an earlier provided personal service.

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