Pakistan news June 9, 2011

Court defers Afridi hearing till June 16

The Sindh High Court has deferred till June 16 further hearings on the petition filed by former captain Shahid Afridi against the PCB's decision to suspend his central contract and revoke No-Objection certificates (NOC).

The court allowed the NOC to remain in place until the next hearing, which means Afridi will continue to be unavailable for Hampshire with whom he had signed a contract for a Twenty20 stint this summer. The question of whether the PCB was within its rights in revoking the NOC will become the focus of the legal battle from next week.

The case was adjourned after a brief five-minute hearing, essentially because the PCB had not filed a detailed reply to the original petition; they have been asked to do so by the next date. There may be more legal wrangling and delay yet, as the PCB believes the case should be heard in the Lahore High Court.

"We have objection to the assumption of jurisdiction by Sindh High Court," Taffazul Rizvi, the board's legal advisor, said outside the courtroom. "The PCB head office is in Lahore. We have been asked to file a detailed reply to his petition."

But the focus now seems set to fall on the central contracts itself. Rizvi and the PCB claim that Afridi was punished in accordance with the clauses of the central contract. "Punishment, rewards, they are all there in the central contracts," Rizvi said.

Afridi's lawyers, however, claimed there was no such allowance in the contracts. "If the PCB worked according to the central contract, we wouldn't be here right now," Syed Ali Zafar said. "Where does it say in the central contract that the NOC can be revoked? It doesn't say it at all. Article 18 of the Constitution [of Pakistan] says you can't stop someone's livelihood. NOC is a livelihood. There is no such clause in the contracts."

Zafar and associate Mahmood Mandviwalla asked the judges to reinstate the NOC on the basis that it was preventing Afridi from his right to earn a livelihood. There was talk in the courtroom and outside of compensation for monetary losses but that may not be the concern of this hearing. "The most important thing was to stop the disciplinary proceedings as a first step," Zafar said.

Afridi didn't appear for the hearing, but despite that a generous crowd had gathered outside the courts to show their support, asking for his reinstatement and for the PCB chairman Ijaz Butt to be sacked.

Earlier this week, the court had stayed the committee's proceedings against Afridi, after his petition challenging the validity of the sanctions imposed on him by the PCB.

The PCB suspended Afridi's central contract and withdrew the NOCs after his decision to "retire", which he had announced on a TV channel, as well as his subsequent criticism of the board officials.

Afridi's lawyers then sent a letter to the PCB in a bid to resolve the dispute between the two parties, stressing that they were asking only for a due process to be followed and that the act of suspension of the central contract and NOC withdrawal were punishments before the player had been heard.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of ESPNcricinfo