Pakistan news February 10, 2014

Zaka Ashraf out, Najam Sethi returns as PCB chairman

The turmoil within the top management of the PCB took two new, and yet familiar, twists on Monday with the Patron of the Board, Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, dismissing the chairman Zaka Ashraf once again and dissolving the board of governors. Sharif directed a management committee to pick a PCB chairman from among its eight members and it chose Najam Sethi, who acted as interim chairman while Ashraf was suspended.

The management committee included Shahriyar Khan (former PCB chairman), Najam Sethi (former interim PCB chairman), Zaheer Abbas (former Pakistan captain), Naveed Akram Cheema (chief secretary, Punjab), Shakeel Sheikh (former member of PCB board of governors), Yousaf Naseem Khokhar (former member of PCB board of governors), Iqbal Qasim (former cricketer), Ijaz Chaudary (IPC secretary). It will meet for the first time on February 11.

The mandate given by the prime minister to the committee is to form a new PCB constitution and restore stability to cricket administration in Pakistan. The committee said they will let the decisions made by Ashraf stand only if they are legitimate, and will scrap the ones that are not.

Ashraf was critical of the decsion. "The decision clearly shows that there is government interference (in the PCB)," he said. "It's an undemocratic decision by a democratic government."

It was the second time that Ashraf had been removed as PCB chairman in the last eight months. Ashraf had been suspended in May 2013 by the Islamabad High Court after it ruled he had been elected via a "dubious" and "polluted" process. However, after a complicated legal process, he was reinstated by the same court on January 15 this year.

The Ministry of Inter-Provincial Co-ordination (IPC) had challenged the verdict of the Islamabad High Court, which re-instated Ashraf as chairman. The Supreme Court had accepted the petition but had refrained from taking the case ahead, suggesting that the government exercise its authority to initiate changes within the PCB. On January 31, the government withdrew its petition against Ashraf's return as chairman from the Supreme Court.

" … There are serious issues in the management of PCB, repugnant to the aim and object of PCB and that there is an immediate and emergent need to take necessary measures to improve the management of PCB as well as to streamline the game of cricket at all levels in Pakistan," an IPC ministry statement said. "Now therefore, under the power conferred upon the Patron under para graphs 41 of the PCB constitution as amended, the Prime Minister of Pakistan being Patron PCB has been pleased to constitute the following management committee to performance of the function with immediate effects …

"The above committee shall elect one of its member as chairman, who shall be the Chairman PCB. It shall supersede the Board of Governers, including the Chairman PCB, who shall cease to exit/hold office with immediate effect."

In May last year, Ashraf became the first elected PCB chairman for a period of four years under a new constitution. He was then suspended a few weeks later following questions over the legality of his appointment. Under the amended constitution the Patron of the PCB could remove the chairman only on the basis of financial irregularities. The constitution did not allow no-confidence motions to be raised against the PCB chairman.

In Ashraf's case, the problem with election was at two levels. One, it was done secretively and in a hurry, ahead of the country's general elections in which the party Ashraf derived his power from - the Pakistan People's Party - was eventually voted out. Two, the composition of the board of governors was questionable, with no representation on it of the entire province of Punjab, Pakistan's most populous and arguably its most dominant in terms of cricket players.

Subsequently, Sethi was appointed as interim chairman in June by the prime minister - the new patron of the board - Nawaz Sharif. However, Sethi was not appointed as per the specifications of the IHC, and so in July the court overturned all the major decisions taken by him and restricted his powers to the overseeing of the day-to-day administration of the board. At that point, the court also ordered fresh elections by October 18.

However, with it being evident the elections would not take place by the stipulated deadline, the board's patron, Sharif, dissolved the PCB's governing board on October 15 and created an interim management committee (IMC), the members of which unanimously chose Sethi as its head. The PCB had been run by the IMC until the court reinstated Ashraf on January 15.

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. He tweets here

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