Zulqarnain Haider returns to Pakistan
Five and a half months after fleeing to London from the UAE on the morning of an ODI, Zulqarnain Haider, the former Pakistan wicketkeeper, has returned home, having secured security assurances from the government about his safety and that of his family.
Haider landed at Islamabad airport on Monday morning and was swiftly escorted by security personnel to the office of Rehman Malik, the Interior Minister, who had convinced him to come back from London. Haider, who turned 25 on Saturday, had announced last week that he was prepared to revoke his application for asylum in the UK and return to Pakistan and resume his playing career. However, soon after that, there was confusion; some channels reported that he was reconsidering his decision after receiving threatening phone calls in the aftermath of his decision to return.
But later he clarified to other channels - as well as leaving an update on his Facebook page - confirming that he would be returning as planned. Haider also recorded the threatening calls he had received, parts of which were aired on some Pakistani channels.
"I am happy to return," he said on Monday afternoon, after a meeting with Malik. "I have met Rehman Malik and the sports minister and they have provided me foolproof security," he said.
"When I landed at the airport everything was superb. They have given me superb accommodation and have lived upto their promise. I have just talked to them and briefed them on what happened to me. When I meet Ijaz Butt [PCB chairman] I will share with him too. I think no one will put his future on line and there were some reasons when I left the team and went to Britain."
Haider had gone missing from the Pakistan team's hotel in Dubai on the morning of the fifth and final ODI against South Africa on November 8, saying he had received death threats from unidentified people seeking to draw him into match-fixing. He fled to the UK to seek protection and placed an application for asylum that hinged on the nature of the information he was able to divulge, as the extraordinary nature of his case appeared to fall outside the usual conditions required of a person seeking refugee status.
In the aftermath of his flight, Haider announced his international retirement and his contract with the PCB was suspended. A fact-finding committee subsequently set-up by the PCB to look into the affair failed to find any clear motives behind his actions.
But the committee was told by some of the national team's support staff that Haider had a complex personality, was a "weak nerve" person and "a person who is easily convinced into believing whatever is said to him." The committee, which spoke to Haider by phone, asked the PCB to write to Haider and ask him what happened in Dubai which forced him to fly to London.
The report tapped into increasing public scepticism over the motives for Haider's flight, not helped by a growing number of statements by the player promising much in the fight against corruption but delivering little. When one channel said last week that he was considering not returning, Haider threatened them with legal action.
What happens now remains unclear. A board official told ESPNcricinfo that there was no "official next step," as far as Haider was concerned. "The fact-finding committee's last communication with him was to seek some more details, but they never heard back from him. The board will do nothing now until he gets in touch with us. After that we can decide on a future course of action, whether disciplinary because he breached the code of conduct, or otherwise."
Haider said he hadn't decided whether or not to take back his retirement, saying he wanted to "spend some time with my family," first.