Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Daily Times Editorial Feb 13, 2014

Cricket shambles Pakistan cricket has been facing many serious challenges for some years now, including first and foremost the refusal of teams to play on Pakistani soil because of security concerns stemming from the attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore in 2007. Since then, Pakistan has been reduced to playing its ‘home’ series offshore in the UAE. Inevitably, this has had an effect on our cricket team’s performance, deprived as it is of the oxygen of home audiences’ support. As if this was not enough, the musical chairs farce that has afflicted the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) since last year has reduced Pakistan’s cricket and general standing to a laughing stock internationally. It may be recalled that the International Cricket Council (ICC), the global governing body of the game, had adopted rules that envisaged elected officials for the boards of member countries and non-interference by governments in the affairs of the sport. The effort to adopt a constitution and hold elections to the PCB, which elected Zaka Ashraf as chairman, ran into trouble with the courts when petitions challenging the process of the elections, and therefore Zaka Ashraf’s incumbency, bore fruit in his removal by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on the grounds that the elections were flawed. Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif, himself a keen cricketer, after assuming office last year, took some far-reaching decisions. First and foremost, he shifted the office of patron-in-chief of the PCB from the president to the PM. Wise or not, given that the president is supposed to be above party affiliations and the PM clearly is not, the move could be considered in violation of the spirit and letter of the ICC’s decisions. Not only this, the PM then appointed Najam Sethi to replace Zaka Ashraf, amidst a great deal of finger pointing that this was done to ‘reward’ Sethi for ‘services rendered’ while he was caretaker chief minister Punjab. True or not, the allegations have resurfaced (in Imran Khan’s going public with his accusations against Sethi of being complicit in election rigging in last year’s general elections) after Zaka Ashraf, having won his legal battle and been restored as chairman by the IHC in January, was summarily removed by the PM on February 10 through a notification considered in violation of the PCB constitution. Further, the PM dissolved the Board of Governors of the PCB and created a ‘new’ eight-member management committee of the PCB (three of its members were part of the dissolved PCB Board). This committee, in its first meeting, restored Sethi as chairman. The restored chairman and management committee then got down to wielding the axe and sacking Zaka’s appointees to various posts, replacing them with their preferred candidates. Whether each and every one of these decisions passes the test of ‘due process and transparency’ the new management committee says it is wedded to, and on the basis of which it struck down many of Zaka’s appointments, remains a moot point. Inevitably, this constant chopping and changing in the PCB has had, and is likely to have, deleterious effects on the already parlous state of Pakistan cricket. The ICC may also get into the act if it takes adverse notice of the latest measures. The alarmist view is that the changes could attract Pakistan’s suspension from international cricket. Even if that prognosis proves overblown, there is little doubt that the lack of constancy and continuity in Pakistan cricket is bound to take its toll in the run up to the two major tournaments we are scheduled to play: the Asia Cup and the World T20, and after. However, the saga of political factionalism and matters being decided on the basis of likes and dislikes rather than merit is unlikely to end any time soon. For a start, it will be back to the courts, since two petitions challenging Zaka’s removal have been moved in the IHC. Suspiciously, a petition has also been moved against Zaka Ashraf alleging corruption and mismanagement while heading the Agricultural Development Bank and the PCB. The timing leaves a bad taste and suspicions of ‘harassment’ cannot be lightly dismissed. Individuals come and go; the game and the country’s prestige should be the primary concern of all. Given our national penchant for destroying institutions and flouting all rules, conventions and principles, Pakistan cricket seems set for a rough ride ahead.

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