Top banker tipped to replace Ijaz Butt
Zaka Ashraf, a top banker and businessman, is understood to have been picked as chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board succeeding Ijaz Butt, though a formal announcement to that effect is awaited. Ashraf is president of the Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited and a close confidant of Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari, who as Patron of the board will make the formal appointment.
The news has not been officially confirmed by the PCB and in fact senior officials insisted that no decision had been taken; Butt, who is on an extension of tenure, himself told reporters he was not aware of any notification and would be at his office on Wednesday morning. However, Ashraf's name was all over the Pakistani media, including, significantly, the government-run PTV channel.
Ashraf himself appeared on private TV channels and spoke at length about his plans for the PCB. His priority, he said, was to improve Pakistan cricket's image abroad after a series of high-profile scandals. "I will work day and night to live up to President Zardari's confidence. My top priority will be to improve Pakistan's cricket image and stop bookies and match-fixers."
He also said he would try to improve relations with other cricket boards - including India, with whom sporting and diplomatic ties have stalled after a terrorist attack on Mumbai in 2008. "People in both Pakistan and India love cricket so I will try to resume ties," he was quoted as saying.
Ashraf's three-year term as president of ZTBL ended on September 3, 2011, and he is expected not to carry on in the position once he takes over his duties as PCB chairman. ZTBL is one of Pakistan's top public-sector banks and is also represented by a team in Division One of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, the domestic first-class competition. The team features several players who have played for Pakistan, including Saeed Ajmal, Yasir Hameed, Imran Nazir and Zulqarnain Haider.
Apart from being president of ZTBL, Ashraf is co-chairman of the Pakistan Sugar Mills Association, Punjab zone. He reportedly studied with Pakistan's president Asif Ali Zardari in college and stayed in the same hostel.
Butt, whose three-year tenure ended on October 8, had attended the ICC executive board meeting in Dubai on October 10 with an extension of his tenure under consideration. His term was plagued with controversies, including the armed attack on the Sri Lanka team in Lahore that resulted in Pakistan being denied the chance to co-host the 2011 World Cup, the spot-fixing scandal (and the problems with the ECB in its aftermath when Butt made controversial accusations against the England team), Zulqarnain Haider's fleeing to the UK mid-way through a tour after receiving threats from bookies and, most recently, a much-publicised clash with Shahid Afridi.