The Qayyum report and why match-fixing is such a damnably difficult offence to prove
First things first. Justice Malik Muhammad Qayyum's report takes some digesting, not least because of the weight of accusation and counter-accusation, denial, opinion presented as evidence, hearsay and selective amnesia contained in it.
What is clear, though, is that Justice Qayyum believes Pakistan cricket during the 1990s to have been dirtied, specifically by Salim Malik, but probably with help from others.
Salim's disgrace is not unexpected. Whenever the subject of match-fixing has come up, Salim's name has never been far from the conversation, yet Justice Qayyum' problem was to sift the wheat from the chaff, to separate the truth from a mass of rumour and innuendo.
The report takes some time to get going, but eventually Justice Qayyum narrows his focus down to four specific tours or matches in which Salim was involved: the 1993/94 tour to New Zealand, with particular reference to the third Test and fifth one-day international, both of which matches were played in Christchurch; the 1994/95 Singer Cup in Sri Lanka; the 1994 tour by Australia; and the 1994/95 tour to South Africa when Pakistan played appalling cricket to lose the first two legs of the Mandela Cup final.
And in discussing the Christchurch Test match, Justice Qayyum pins down exactly why match-fixing is such a damnably difficult offence to prove. "All the evidence that is available is primarily opinion and based on personal suspicion more than anything," writes the judge. In other words, how do you distinguish between players deliberately batting and bowling poorly, and simply batting and bowling poorly?
Of all international teams, Pakistan have notoriously blown hot and cold. No one, for example, who watched Imran Khan's team in the early stages of the 1992 World Cup would have predicted Pakistan as likely finalists, let alone winners?
However, from the report emerges a picture of Pakistan cricket as riven with jealousy, greed and suspicion. The most credible witness, in Justice Qayyum's eyes, is Rashid Latif, the former captain who once quit international cricket (at the end of the 1994/95 tour of South Africa) in disgust at Salim's captaincy.
But even Latif's evidence cannot be taken entirely at face value. At one point during the inquiry, Latif produced tape recordings which, on closer inspection, proved to have been edited. The explanation, somewhat bizarrely, was that the tapes had been in the possession of a relative of Basit Ali who had edited them to eliminate all references to Basit Ali.
Nevertheless, Rashid's evidence clearly impressed Justice Qayyum. "First and foremost, this Commission must acknowledge Mr. Rashid Latif, albeit with some reservation because, of inter alia, the tainted evidence he handed in," writes Justice Qayyum. "Nevertheless, his persistence in pursuing this matter needs to be appreciated. If he had not taken the steps he did, the Australians may well have not come forward openly and this Commission would not have been able to clear the air."
Also crucial to Justice Qayyum's findings was the evidence presented by Australians Mark Waugh and Shane Warne regarding bribes offered to them by Salim. Even though the pair's credibility was damaged when it later emerged that they, too, had had dealings with a bookmaker, Justice Qayyum is inclined to believe them.
The judge is at pains to explain how he has weighed his evidence. In a criminal case, for instance, guilt has to be proven beyond all reasonable doubt, but in a civil case blame can be apportioned on the balance of probabilities.
For the purposes of this commission, he has inclined towards the latter interpretation, but it is clear that he believes Salim was in it all up to his neck. "There is clear evidence of match-fixing against Mr. Salim Malik. He should be banned for life from Cricket. Further an inquiry should be conducted into his assets and charges brought against him in a criminal court of law."
It also seems to be the case that Wasim Akram has escaped a similar judgement only by the skin of his teeth. That further action against Wasim, other than removing him from the captaincy, has not been recommended is largely because Ata-ur-Rehman provided contradictory statements to the inquiry, firstly implicating Wasim and later retracting the accusation.
"The evidence against Wasim Akram has not come up to the requisite level, primarily because of Ata-ur-Rehman's perjuring himself. This Commission is willing to give him the benefit of doubt. However, there has been some evidence to cast doubt on his integrity."
Justice Qayyum finds that the Pakistan team as a whole have been innocent of match-fixing, yet he goes on to issue a series of recommendations designed to ensure that future teams would not be inclined to succumb to temptation.
For instance, he devotes several paragraphs to the pay structure of the Pakistan team, suggesting that if they were better paid, they might not be so inclined to seek out other means of remuneration.
He also wants future captains and managers to be men of impeccable characters, suggests that an impartial ombudsman travel with the team in future and urges that Pakistan be kept away from venues where betting and bookmakers are common. These are not, surely, indications of purity and innocence.
But perhaps more important than the report itself is what the Pakistan Cricket Board, and then the International Cricket Council, do with its findings.
The Judge wants Salim banned from all cricket for life, Ata-ur-Rehman banned from international cricket and Wasim stripped of the captaincy. He also suggests fines for five other players (including Waqar Younis and Inzamam-ul-Haq, both of whom initially denied that they'd ever heard of match-fixing) and there is to be further investigation into Mushtaq Ahmed.
For a "home" judge this is pretty stern stuff, and although he finds the team as a whole innocent, this is a qualified judgement. "Various cricket experts like Imran Khan, Javed Miandad have stated that for a match to be fixed at least 5-7 players ought to be bought. As seen above, this commission could not find conclusive evidence against as many players, thus on the whole the team is cleared of blame."
The ball, quite clearly, is now in the hands of the PCB and the ICC. It is their's to run with. Equally clearly, this is not the end of a process but the start of one.