Zaka Ashraf reinstated as PCB chairman again
Zaka Ashraf has been reinstated as PCB chairman for the second time this year, after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) annulled the committee headed by Najam Sethi and all the decisions taken by it. The development is likely to impact the Pakistan team significantly because their head coach Waqar Younis, team manager and chief selector Moin Khan, and other staff were appointed during Sethi's most recent tenure as PCB chairman.
In its 26-page order, the IHC said the lawyers appearing for the respondents could not "prove the reason for removal of [the] earlier set-up of the board." The court said merely leveling allegations against Ashraf without proof to back them up was insufficient evidence, and therefore the "notification for supersession of Pakistan Cricket Board is purely an arbitrary exercise, which is entirely based on malafide.
"Therefore, the impugned notification (dated February 10, 2014, which dismissed Ashraf) superseding duly elected body of Pakistan Cricket Board without assigning any reason is required to be struck down. The same is therefore hereby annulled."
Ashraf arrived at the PCB headquarters in Lahore this afternoon with a large convoy of his supporters. "Eventually justice prevailed," he said on arrival. "I always respected the court decision, and even if it was against me I could have accepted that as well. The court judgment says that all decisions in my absence are nullified but I will review them."
During the last four months Sethi's management committee had taken several key decisions that could now stand void. A six-member selection committee headed by Moin and a junior selection committee headed by Basit Ali were formed. Waqar was named head coach; former Zimbabwe batsman Grant Flower and former Pakistan legspinner Mushtaq Ahmed were given two-year contracts as batting coach and spin consultant; and Misbah ul Haq was named ODI captain until 2015.
There were several administrative appointments as well: Zaheer Abbas was named principal advisor, Amjad Hussain was named director media, Haroon Rashid was named director academy. The Sethi-led management committee had also passed a new constitution, which was to be implemented from June 10.
The ongoing turmoil in the PCB administration dates back to May 2013, when Ashraf became the PCB's first elected chairman. Shortly after he took office the IHC - responding to a petition filed by a former Rawalpindi Cricket Association official - suspended Ashraf, calling the process that elected him "dubious and polluted".
In June, the IHC upheld Ashraf's suspension and later that month Sethi, a senior journalist and former caretaker chief minister of Punjab, was named the interim PCB chairman by the government of Pakistan. The very next month, the IHC directed the Election Commission of Pakistan to carry out polls for the PCB chairman's post by October 18 and overruled all major decisions taken by the Sethi administration.
The elections, however, never took place and after a succession of legal developments - including the dissolution of the PCB's governing board in October and the formation of a five-man interim committee headed by Sethi to run Pakistan cricket - the IHC reinstated Ashraf as PCB chairman in January.
The reappointment was short-lived because, in February, the Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif dismissed Ashraf again and dissolved the board of governors, and Sethi returned as chairman, heading an eight-member committee to run cricket in Pakistan. This is the administration the IHC's latest ruling has done away with.
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @kalson