Pakistan news July 17, 2014

Woman cricketer dies in mysterious circumstances

A Multan-based woman's cricketer Haleema Rafique was found dead under mysterious circumstances in her home. While Haleema's family did originally state she had committed suicide, they went ahead with the funeral rites, neither registering a case against any individual nor reporting the matter to the police. The local police have begun to investigate the circumstances of Haleema's death, with the Punjab government also taking notice, because Haleema's name features in a prominent local case involving a former member of the Punjab provisional assembly.

Haleema was one of five women cricketers of the women-only Multan Cricket Club (MCC), who faced a defamation suit of Rs. 20 million by their club president, Mulvi Sultan a former judge of an anti-terrorist court and a former member of Punjab's provisional assembly. Sultan filed the defamation suit against Seema Javed, Kiran Irshad, her twin-sister Hina, Saba Ghafoor and Haleema because they had accused Sultan of sexual harassment in a television programme last year.

The PCB and its women's wing subsequently held an inquiry and dismissed the charges against Sultan. In October 2013 a two-member inquiry committee, which included national women's coach Mauhtashim Rasheed and PCB women wing manager Ayesha Ashaar, banned all five cricketers, censured the Multan District Cricket Association and said it was keeping the MCC on a 'watch' list. Haleema was one of two cricketers not to attend the inquiry hearings.

The PCB expressed shock at Haleema's untimely death and said, "Pakistan Cricket Board Women Wing is shocked and saddened at Haleema Rafiq's death, reportedly from suicide. The young woman cricketer from Multan was apparently under extreme stress after defamation notice for Rs20 million was served on her by the owner of the Multan Cricket Club, Maulvi Sultan Alam, for levelling allegations of sexual harassment against him last year on a private television channel."

The statement made it a point to say, the "Pakistan Cricket Board Women Wing had no contact with any of the five girls after it banned them for six months with effect from October 23, 2013."

Exclusive club cricket for women is rare in Pakistan and the MCC is one of the rare women's only cricket clubs. Multan cricket has produced two international women's cricketers, Asmavia Iqbal and Sania Khanare, who currently are the part of the Pakistan squad for the upcoming Australia tour and the 2014 Asian Games.

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @kalson