Court order clears road for Zaka Ashraf return
The Islamabad High Court has dismissed the order issued by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the patron of the Pakistan Cricket Board, on February 10 that removed Zaka Ashraf as the chairman of the board and formed an eight-member committee led by Najam Sethi. The natural consequence of the court order would be that Ashraf is back at the helm of affairs. The detailed court order, likely on Monday, will further clarify the bigger picture.
"We were not the petitioner but we were made a party of various petitions against Najam Sethi for termination of dozens of employees," Ashraf's laywer, Affan Kundi, told ESPNcricinfo. "Wrapping up the various petitions, the judge suspended the SRO issued by PM on February 10. And the natural legal interpretation suggests that Zaka Ashraf is back as chairman. I am not sure if there is any other interpretation but meanwhile this is the best understanding of the judge's remarks."
"This is a win for Pakistan cricket," Ashraf said. "I will try to correct the wrong things in Pakistan cricket and do whatever is good for Pakistan cricket."
Sethi, however, said the judgement will be "challenged vigourously and swiftly". His committee had been working to "professionalise" the PCB, he said, and he would strive to not let the work it had done go to waste. "Two ex-Supreme Court judges submitted a draft of a democratic PCB constitution to the federal government last week," he said. "I wrote to the government to vet it, promulgate it and hold PCB chairman and board elections before June 9, the cut-off date given in the SRO appointing the management committee.
"But the court neither gave our lawyers a chance to defend the SRO or put our electoral plan in action. This judgment will be challenged vigourously and swiftly and the good steps we took to professionalise and invigourate cricket and clean-up the PCB will not be allowed to go in vain."
On February 10, Sharif superseded Ashraf-led governing board and directed a management committee to pick a PCB chairman from among its eight members. The committee chose Najam Sethi, who has acted as interim chairman while Ashraf was suspended in 2013 by the same court. Sethi has been working as the PCB chairman, leading the eight-member adhoc management committee that also included Shahriyar Khan (former 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).
Justice Noorul Haq N Qureshi, heading the single-member bench at IHC, was the judge hearing petitions against the PCB challenging the termination of a number of employees in the board, including that of former chief selector Mohammad Ilyas. Although Ashraf was not the petitioner, he was made a party to it.
In the last 12 months, Ashraf had been removed as the PCB chairman twice. He was 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 before Sharif dismissed him again on February 10.
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @kalson