Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. He tweets here
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The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to carry out fresh elections for the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board by October 18 this year. The judgement overrules all major decisions taken by the interim chairman Najam Sethi, who took over last month.
The 30-page judgement, a copy of which ESPNcricinfo has obtained, has asked for changes in the structure of the PCB, questioned the appointment of the selection committee, as well as its financial and recruitment affairs. According to the order, a candidate competing for the post of chairman must be an ex-cricketer, a graduate and also comply with Article 62, 63 in the constitution of Pakistan.
The judgement will not affect the Pakistan team currently in the West Indies for a limited-overs series. However, one of Sethi's major decisions was appointing Moin Khan as the chairman of selectors, but as per the court's ruling, Moin's appointment stands cancelled.
The judgement, made public on Monday, has reduced the powers of the President of Pakistan, also the patron of the PCB. Since 1960, the President had the power to appoint the PCB chairman but the judgement has reduced the President's extensive role and going forward the PCB will have to consult the country's Prime Minister for various decisions, apart from appointing the chairman.
"These provisions give powers to the Patron-In-Chief of PCB i.e. President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, to have the first and final say in the matter which authority is no more vested in the President after the 19th Constitutional Amendment. The President's status is merely symbolic and authority has to be exercised, if any, through the Prime Minister," Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui wrote in his judgement.*
The High Court has concluded the writ petition filed by a former Rawalpindi Cricket Association official against the board elections held in May, when Ashraf was elected chairman for a four-year term under the new PCB constitution. Ashraf was later suspended from his post by the IHC, after there were questions raised about the legality of his election. The High Court said the process had been "dubious" and "polluted" and Sethi was appointed as interim chairman.
"Practically, Najam Sethi is no more the acting chairman, rather his status is of a caretaker being appointed by the court for a period of 90 days with the objective of looking into the day-to-day affairs of the PCB, cooperate and ensure the holding of elections by the Election Commission of Pakistan within the stipulated period commencing from July 21 to October 18, which period shall not be extended on any pretext whatsoever," Justice Siddiqui wrote.
"Now, in order to achieve the objective of a free, fair, credible and transparent election, this court is convinced that this objective can be achieved with the help of Election Commission of Pakistan, (which) shall hold the election of the chairman of the PCB within ninety days starting from July 21, 2013."
The judgement will affect the PCB's daily affairs, as well as its budget this year, selection of its Under-23 teams and that of the national team's Zimbabwe tour and the renewal of the broadcaster deal. The PCB, in general, has been seized and will remain so till the newly elected chairman takes office. The PCB, being an autonomous body, isn't regulated by the government, and engaging the ECP for electing the PCB chairman is a complex scenario to carry out.
In response, the PCB has said it will contemplate appealing the judgement. "The PCB hasn't yet received the official copy of the judgement of the Honourable Islamabad High Court," PCB legal advisor Taffazul Rizvi told ESPNcricinfo. "We are still waiting for it but in light of media reports the decision may have far-reaching consequences for Pakistan cricket as it has the potential of being misinterpreted. Some of the findings in the judgement as reported were neither argued nor raised in the pleading of the parties, therefore the PCB will have no other legal option but to file an Appeal, which will be vehemently pursued."
Sethi's role has also been curbed and all decisions made by him are assumed as null and void and against the law having no legal sanctity. Since taking over, Sethi has attended the ICC's annual conference in London, headed a meeting of the PCB board of governors (BoG) and appointed Moin as chairman of the selection committee. Justice Siddiqui although didn't suspend the entire constitution, but has suspended the process of the appointment of the PCB chairman.
"Appointment of members of the selection committee, its chairman and other appointments/termination of services in the PCB as well as any major decision shall be the right domain of the newly elected chairman of the PCB," Justice Siddiqui wrote.
"Criteria for appointment of the selection committee is also highly questionable but no remedial steps are being taken to bring credible criteria of the nomination/appointment of the member of the selection committee and its chairman. The decades-old formula of appointing the committee needs to be reviewed, all the regions to be given the right to be a member of the selection committee on rotation. The scope of the selection committee is required to be enhanced by including one sports journalist, cricket commentator and one keen follower of the game of cricket having sufficient knowledge from the general public."
Regarding the financial affairs of the PCB, the judge directed the special audit of the PCB as well as the National Cricket Academy, to be conducted by the Audit General of Pakistan, whose report shall be made public.
* - Tuesday July 23, 2013, 0900 GMT - Story updated to include quotes on the Prime Minister's role