LAHORE: A two-member bench of the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan on Monday set aside the Islamabad High Court (IHC) decision that restored Zaka Ashraf as chief of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). The SC also directed the federal government to appoint new acting PCB chairman, election commissioner and hold PCB chief elections within a week under new constitution, which was given green signal to be implemented. The SC also directed current PCB chairman Najam Sethi to continue in his post for seven days before the appointments were made for conducting the election.
The SC bench comprising Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali and Justice Mian Saqib Nisar heard the appeal filed by the Inter Provincial Coordination (IPC) Ministry against the IHC’s decision to reinstate Ashraf. During the hearing, Sethi informed the SC he had no intention of contesting the new election for the chairmanship, but he could hold a position in the new Board of Governors, which is likely to be formed soon. The SC decision yesterday ended a 14-month administrative crisis that sparked international ridicule. The saga began in May last year when the then-PCB chairman Ashraf was suspended for holding ‘dubious’ elections. Since then, Ashraf and veteran journalist Sethi have been engaged in a power struggle for the top job. Each was reinstated in turn while the other was thrown out of office through a series of court rulings and government decrees.
Earlier, IPC Ministry counsel Asma Jehangir submitted before the SC that the appointment of chairman was an administrative matter and the court could not intervene in it. However, Justice Saqib observed that the court could review whether the appointment was made on merit or not. “The PCB has a democratic constitution and the institution should also be run in a democratic manner,” he added. The PCB’s counsel Malik Qayyum said that the bench was not dealing with issue of government powers but it had to decide the matter of PCB chairman appointment. Ashraf’s counsel pleaded before the bench to issue directions to stop the PCB elections. “If not then respondent Ashraf should also be allowed to contest,” he added. However, the SC declined the request observing that two inquiries were pending against Ashraf.
Speaking to reporters outside the court after the SC verdict, Sethi said the PCB petition had been accepted by the SC which had overruled the IHC’s judgement. “This effectively means that the management committee is in charge of the PCB again and since I am the head of the committee, I am back as the rightful chief of the PCB,” he added. Sethi said he would not contest the PCB chairman election. “After today’s ruling I am restored until the elections are held and I will sit in the Board of Governors but will not be contesting the election for the chairman’s post.”
National media last month reported that Sethi would create a new position of PCB managing director for himself, with the chairman becoming a ceremonial post. The report was denied by the PCB. “I had said before, and I am saying this now, that I had no long-term interest in the PCB and my long-term interest is only in the media. I never harboured any such ambitions in the first place,” said Sethi, a long time newspaper editor and TV anchor. Sethi said he would continue to perform his duties as the chairman until an acting chief takes over.
The musical chairs game for the top job has made the PCB a laughing stock overseas, with the International Cricket Council (ICC) showing concern over who it should talk to on administrative matters. Traditionally, the government of the day appoints its own candidate as head of the PCB, a system, which has come in for criticism from many including former players.
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